Toxicity of Artificial Turf, Recycled Tire Playgrounds, and Splash Pads 💦

Importance:

Artificial turf and splash pads are made with highly toxic materials, including lead. I do have a hierarchy of concerns and this is a huge one.

The materials consist of either loose crumbles of old tires, or “poured in place” smaller crumbles mixed with polyurethane binder, spread out flat and hardened. Both types are often dyed as well, adding additional toxicity. Some artificial turf has artificial grass attached to it, made of plastic fibers which abrade over time into dust that children and athletes breathe in.

Toxicity Concerns:

This is an example of when being “earth friendly” is a misnomer, because “recycled” tires are highly toxic and should not be used in children’s play environments. Tire swings and planters should also be avoided. Tires contain at least 12 carcinogens and lead, a neurotoxin. There are at least 96 chemicals. Also see this link.

As described in this article, “the material can contain heavy metals like lead and manganese, volatile organic compounds like toluene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The chemicals are associated with cancer and other illnesses at certain levels of exposure.

Exposure to any one of the chemicals typically found in used tires is concerning, said Homero Harari, with the Institute for Exposomic Research at Mount Sinai in New York. But the mixture is even more worrisome, he said.

Crumb rubber often breaks apart, spreading into the air children breathe and getting swallowed when kids put their hands in their mouths.”

Here are scientific journal articles and reports about the hazards at this link.

Here is another great information resource link that includes more information about lead, as does this news article.

A page on Facebook that posts regularly on the issue surrounding artificial turf is Rockwood Turf Restored.

Other Safety Concerns and Alternatives:

These materials aren’t even great for protection from falls, as explained in this article.

In addition, artificial turf gets too hot and poses a burn risk as described in this article.

Best alternatives include un-dyed wood chips, or in-treated grass.

An alternative that is NOT safe is “EPDM” rubber.

More Information About Splash Pads:

Splash pads are either made with poured in place rubber, or EVA foam, which is a risk for lead and formamide (not to be confused with formaldehyde).

As mentioned with the playground falls, the foam is so thin it would not help if a child falls.

Other toxicity concerns with splash pads include the water, which contains fluoride, sometimes chloramines, and has chlorine added.

The water also picks up all the toxicants that leach from the poured in place surface and plastic parts, as well as sunscreen, and other toxic products that people have applied to their skin, as well as urine and fecal and other bacteria, and then is recirculated.

Better alternatives to the poured in place surface include pure gum rubber sheeting (from rubber trees, not recycled tires) or just smooth concrete.

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