Something new for parents to worry about

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Shi Yali’

Today’s Metro Connection on WAMU is going to be discussing the subject of “crumb rubber,” a sort of mulch made from old tires that’s been the up and coming material to put in playgrounds for a while now. Sometimes it’s put out in chunks, sometimes surfaces are made out of it, like running tracks or the flooring in the playground area out at the national zoo.

Apparently a memo has been leaked from the Environmental Protection Agency that indicates some concerns with the use of crumb rubber. I can’t find a copy of it at the moment so it’s unclear whether this is a general issue or just in regards to childhood exposure. Presumably these are questions that will be answered on Metro Connection. Right before a thousand other questions are raise and not answered.

Listen live or look for a recording to be available online sometime this afternoon.

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


2 thoughts on “Something new for parents to worry about

  1. There doesn’t appear to be any significant issues, particularly after the material has aged in place:

    1: Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Jan;114(1):1-3.
    A case study of tire crumb use on playgrounds: risk analysis and communication
    when major clinical knowledge gaps exist.
    Anderson ME, Kirkland KH, Guidotti TL, Rose C.
    Department of Community Health Services, Denver Health, and Department of
    Pediatrics, University of Colorado Health Science Center, Denver, Colorado 80204,

    Physicians and public health professionals working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) received several telephone calls requesting information regarding the safety of recycled tire crumb as a playground surface constituent placed below children’s play structures. There were no reported symptoms or adverse health effects in exposed children. The literature available on the safety and risk of exposure to crumb rubber constituents was limited and revealed no information quantifying exposures associated with product use. Callers were informed by the PEHSU that no evidence existed suggesting harm from intended use of the product, but gaps in knowledge about the product were identified and communicated. Here the case of crumb rubber on playgrounds is used as a model to present an approach to similar environmental medicine questions. From defining the question, to surveying traditional and nontraditional resources for information, synthesis of findings, and risk communication, the case provides a model to approach similar questions.

    2: J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2003 Jul;53(7):903-7.
    Toxicological evaluation for the hazard assessment of tire crumb for use in
    public playgrounds.
    Birkholz DA, Belton KL, Guidotti TL.
    Enviro-Test Laboratories, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

    Disposal of used tires has been a major problem in solid waste management. New uses will have to be found to consume recycled tire products. One such proposed use is as ground cover in playgrounds. However, concern has been expressed regarding exposure of children to hazardous chemicals and the environmental impact of such chemicals. We designed a comprehensive hazard assessment to evaluate and address potential human health and environmental concerns associated with the use of tire crumb in playgrounds. Human health concerns were addressed using conventional hazard analyses, mutagenicity assays, and aquatic toxicity tests of extracted tire crumb. Hazard to children appears to be minimal. Toxicity to all aquatic organisms (bacteria, invertebrates, fish, and green algae) was observed; however, this activity disappeared with aging of the tire crumb for three months in place in the playground. We conclude that the use of tire crumb in playgrounds results in minimal hazard to children and the receiving environment.

    3: Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2009 Sep 25. [Epub ahead of print]
    Hydroxypyrene in urine of football players after playing on artificial sports
    field with tire crumb infill.
    van Rooij JG, Jongeneelen FJ.
    IndusTox Consult, PO Box 31070, 6503 CB, Nijmegen, The Netherlands,

    BACKGROUND: Artificial sports fields are increasingly being used for sports. Recycled rubber from automotive and truck scrap rubber tires are used as an infill material for football grounds. There are concerns that football players may be at risk due to exposure from released compounds from rubber infill. Compounds from crumb infill may be inhaled and dermal exposure may occur. A study was performed to assess the exposure of football players to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons due to sporting on synthetic ground with rubber crumb infill. METHODS: In this study, football players were trained and had a match on the artificial turf pitch during 2.5 h. They had an intensive skin contact with rubber infill. All urine of seven nonsmoking football players was collected over a 3-day period, the day before sporting, the day of sporting and the day after sporting. Urine samples were analyzed for 1-hydroxypyrene. Confounding exposure from environmental sources and diet was controlled for. RESULTS: The individual increase of the amount of excretion over time was used as a measure to assess the uptake of PAH. It appeared that the baseline of excreted 1-hydroxypyrene in 4 of 7 volunteers was sufficient stable and that 1 volunteer out of 4 showed after the 2.5-h period of training and match on the playground an increase in hydroxypyrene in urine. However, concomitant dietary uptake of PAH by this volunteer was observed. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence that uptake of PAH by football players active on artificial grounds with rubber crumb infill is minimal. If there is any exposure, than the uptake is very limited and within the range of uptake of PAH from environmental sources and/or diet.