For Immediate Release
Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
EPA Punts on Risks to Children From Playground Tire Crumb
Agency Admits It Did Not Perform Promised Scientific Studies of Health Dangers
WASHINGTON - Contrary to its public statements, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency is not conducting studies on potential health effects to
children from contact with shredded tires on playgrounds, according to
correspondence released today by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). Despite serious concerns raised by its own
scientists about health risks to children, the agency continues to
endorse use of ground rubber (called "tire crumb"), on playgrounds
without examining the extent of childhood exposure from ingestion or
inhalation of toxic chemicals found within tires.
Every year millions of pounds of tires are recycled into and
placed on playgrounds to reduce injuries from falls. In fact, tire
crumb was added to the White House playground constructed for the Obama
Records obtained earlier this year by PEER under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) document EPA scientists strongly urging the
agency to immediately "assess toxicological risks of tire crumb in
situations where children are exposed." On May 29, 2009, PEER wrote EPA
Administrator Lisa Jackson asking her to 1) revoke her agency's
endorsement of tire crumb until research shows it is safe for children;
2) issue an interim public health advisory; and 3) coordinate with
other agencies in a risk assessment.
In a reply to PEER dated July 8th, Peter Grevatt, an EPA Senior Advisor on Children's Health wrote:
"One of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's top
priorities is protection of children from harmful environmental
exposures....In response to possible concerns raised by one of our
regional offices, EPA initiated a limited field study to assess the
potential for exposure to constituents of potential health concern in
playgrounds and synthetic turf athletic fields constructed with tire
crumb. We hope to release the study results later this summer...."
A week earlier, EPA spokesman Dale Kemery previewed study
results in the June 30th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer
indicating that "the raw data shows there is no inhalation danger to
children who play on various types of artificial fields and play
In July, PEER submitted another FOIA request for a copy of that
study and any other "scientific assessments, studies or field
monitoring by EPA personnel or contractors concerning possible health
effects from use of recycled tire crumbs in playgrounds." In a final
answer to that FOIA dated September 11, 2009, Eric Wachter, director of
the EPA Office of the Executive Secretariat conceded:
"The Agency has not conducted research to evaluate children's ‘health effects' from tire crumb constituents."
Wachter wrote that EPA only did a "literature review" in 2008 and
after that began a "very limited methods evaluation study" of
"available monitoring methods for characterizing environmental
contaminant concentrations at those recreational fields" but has not
yet finished even that.
"The polite way to say it is EPA misled parents and the public into
believing it was actually addressing potential toxic exposure risks to
kids," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Incredibly, EPA takes
the position it does not know enough to withdraw its endorsement of
playground tire crumb. Common sense and a precautionary approach to
children's health dictate that EPA should not endorse something that it
has not examined."
EPA is slated to receive a 40% budget increase, the biggest in its
history, boosting FY 2010 taxpayer support to above $10 billion a year.
"If safeguarding children's health is a top priority at EPA, why
can't this multi-billion dollar agency afford to take a hard look at
what is in our playgrounds, schoolyards and athletic fields?" asked
Ruch. "At a minimum, EPA should pull its endorsement tomorrow and issue
a health advisory until it has answers."
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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.