Years ago, long before it became a marketing ploy to call everything “green,” the Environmental Protection Agency described, what it called, a green dream.
It was where millions and millions of pounds of useless tires were recycled into tire crumbs or tiny shreds and used to cover playgrounds and athletic fields to reduce injuries from falls and abrasions.
It was beneficial to the environment and protective of air and water that was not poisoned by burning mountains of tires.
Some scientists for the government and public health and consumer groups were concerned about the possible risk this pulverized rubber – real and synthetic – might present to professional athletes and especially to children.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility or PEER, says there is serious and repeated concern about health risks to children who roll and crawl of this over this artificial turf.
PEER describes itself as a national non-profit alliance of local, state and federal scientists, law enforcement officers, land managers and other environmental professionals.
The group says that the EPA has endorsed the use of ground rubber without examining the extent of childhood exposure from ingestion or inhalation of toxic chemicals found within tires.
Studies have shown that benzene, arsenic, cadmium, formaldehyde, lead, chromium and scores of other toxic material is found in most waste rubber. This is one of the main reasons why EPA doesn’t want tires burned or tossed in landfills.
PEER says that in May it wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking her to revoke her agency’s endorsement of tire crumb until research shows it is safe for children and to issue an interim public health advisory.
Neither as happened.
PEER received an answer to its request in July from Peter Grevatt, EPA’s Senior Advisor on Children’s Health.
He wrote that protection of children from harmful environmental exposures is one of the agency’s top priorities.
And, he added, that results of a limited field study to assess potential health concern in playgrounds and synthetic turf athletic fields constructed with tire crumb would be released later in the summer.
PEER says that a week before Grevatt’s reply, a senior EPA spokesman was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer saying that “the raw data shows there is no inhalation danger to children who play on various types of artificial fields and play surfaces.”
Nothing was released.
So PEER filed another Freedom of Information Act request for copies of any and all of the EPA studies on the tires.
Earlier this month, Eric Wachter, director of the EPA Office of the Executive Secretariat replied and conceded that “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, says PEER.
“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.
“Common sense and a precautionary approach to children’s health dictate that EPA should not endorse something that it has not examined,” Ruch says and adds, “At a minimum, EPA should pull its endorsement tomorrow and issue a health advisory until it has answers.”
Tires have been used a road covering in many states and in compacted into hundreds of consumer products from flower pots to bird baths.
Disposing of tires has long been a dilemma. Incineration releases tons of carcinogens into the air.
And piling them in a landfill or field is also unsuitable. Paul Ruesch, an EPA environmental engineer was quoted as saying “They breed mosquitoes 100 times faster than in the normal environment. And the question is no longer if a tire scrap stockpile will end up on fire — but when.”