Communities, Health Advocates Rally for End of Toxic Tire Playgrounds and Turf Fields

Brian Nettles, Esq.

In today’s world, recycling is without a doubt important to protecting the planet and the lives of our children. But is recycling always the best idea? For certain products, the answer is no.

Roughly 25 years ago, landfills were piled high with old tires. Needless to say, this was toxic and dangerous, posing risk of fire, air pollution, stagnate water, and breeding grounds for mosquitoes. In response this issue, today more than 90 percent of the 230 million used tires in the United States are recycled. They’re burned as fuel, used for asphalt roads, and used for synthetic sports fields and playgrounds. You may know it as “turf,” the industry often calls it “tire crumb” or “mulch”–others call it the next asbestos.

Academic experts warn that grinding up the tires puts toxic chemicals in contact with children, pets, and athletes. Some of these toxic elements include polyaromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and carbon black. Here are just a few of the discovered toxins straight from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website:

  • acetone
  • aniline
  • arsenic
  • barium
  • benzene
  • benzothiazole
  • cadmium
  • chloroethane
  • chromium
  • cobalt
  • copper
  • halogenated flame retardants
  • isoprene
  • latex
  • lead
  • manganese
  • mercury
  • methyl ethyl ketone
  • methyl isobutyl ketone
  • naphthalene
  • nickel
  • nylon
  • phenol
  • pigments
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • polyester
  • rayon
  • styrene – butadiene
  • toluene
  • trichloroethylene

Consider that there are some 10,000 synthetic fields or playgrounds, each making use of roughly 40,000 tires (consider that last year, 60 million tires were made for reuse).

In line with the growing use of tire grounds are growing reports of athletes, particularly soccer goalies, being diagnosed with cancer. Goalies are closest to the synthetic ground most often, and and heavy breathing during sport magnifies the risk.

Still, little is being done at the federal level to address the issue. Stories of illness are

Attorney Brian Nettles

Attorney Brian Nettles

largely ignored as background noise and written off as too hard to prove. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) claims to be looking into it, while the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) still recommends the playgrounds to decrease risk of injuries and only vaguely acknowledges the issue (link from above). Making matters more difficult, turf not only “solves” the tire problem at first look, but became popular in the 1990’s for its utility. It outlasts natural grass in the face of weather and wear, and it is often used in dry cities where fields would be dirt or require expensive sprinkler systems.

Thankfully, health advocates and communities recognize that their lives matter in the cost-benefit analysis, and shouldn’t be sacrificed under the umbrella of “utility.” Change is brewing at the local level. Attorneys are compiling names for class action suits and communities are pressuring for cancellation of turf installment. If you are concerned about playgrounds in your area, make your voice heard. Contact your representative and speak with other parents about the issue.

To learn more and hear more stories about the negative effects of tire crumb playgrounds, visit  NBC news.

Add Comment