2 years ago

Dear Mozey, Is The Recycled Tire Mulch Used in My Kid’s Playground Toxic?

Dear Mozey,

My son’s pre-school uses recycled tire mulch for the ground cover in the playground. Everyday he comes home with black hands, arms, and knees from playing in the shredded tire. I can’t help but wonder how toxic it is. Do you know if recycled tire mulch used as playground material is toxic?

Concerned Parent, CA

Dear Concerned Parent,

When researching this question, I came to find out that many other parents are asking the same thing. It seems that in an effort to recycle an over abundant waste product, tires, a health risk may have been created. Many schools and parks these days use recycled tire mulch as a ground cover. Like you said, the recycled tire mulch leaves black grime on the skin after being played in. Not only is this yucky tire grime on our children’s skin, a lot of children also put the mulch in their mouths, and breathe in the dust of the tires.

Basically, the evidence is inconclusive as to the toxicity of recycled tire material being used in children’s playgrounds, day cares, and preschools (Rappleye, December, 2014).


According to the EPA, benzene, mercury, styrene-butadiene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and arsenic, among several other chemicals, heavy metals and carcinogens, have been found in tires. Studies have found that crumb rubber can emit gases that can be inhaled. When the material gets hot, it can increase the chances that volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and chemicals can "off-gas," or leach into the air.

(Rappleye, December, 2014)

Just by reading that list of awful carcinogens, neurotoxins, and VOC’s, I am inclined to connect the dots myself.

In a recent news report by NBC News many questions were raised about the safety of rubber tire mulch and rubber tire crumb used for soccer fields after a couple of soccer players mysteriously both came down with cancer (Rappleye, October, 2014). 

It is unfortunate that there are so many tires in the world that cannot break down and through the creative effort to find new ways to recycle the material, new health risks are presenting themselves, like cancer. 

Our best defense, at this time, is to minimize our children’s exposure to such risks. That may mean sending our kids to a different day care, preschool, or playground. Or it could mean taking the necessary steps to inspire the school board to change the ground cover for their playgrounds. Unfortunately, carcinogens, toxic metals, and neurotoxins are abundant in our food, our vaccines, and our environment. It is important that we stay as informed as possible so that we may make intelligent decisions.

For immediate action, I recommend avid hand washing after playing in the playground at school and especially before eating. If you are really concerned about your child’s exposure you can ask your doctor about getting him or her tested for heavy metals. Probably the absolute best thing we can do as parents is to not expose our children to this potentially toxic substance.

Below I have made a list of recommended articles to read regarding this issue. I encourage you to do your own research and make an informed decision based on what you find.

Happy hand-washing!


Recommended reading for a LOT more information:

Read NBC’s full reports here by Hannah Rappleye:

Rappleye, Hannah, Stephanie Gosk, Kevin Monahan, and Monica Alba. "Is Rubber Mulch a Safe Surface for Your Child's Playground?" NBC News. NBC News, 02 Dec. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2015 from http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/artificial-turf-debate/rubber-mulch-safe-surface-your-childs-playground-n258586http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/artificial-turf-debate/rubber-mulch-safe-surface-your-childs-playground-n258586

Rappleye, Hannah. "How Safe Is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?" NBC News. NBC News, 08 Oct. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2015 from http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/artificial-turf-debate/how-safe-artificial-turf-your-child-plays-n220166http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/artificial-turf-debate/how-safe-artificial-turf-your-child-plays-n220166

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