Rubber Mulch: Is It Safe?

When we were in elementary school, the only thing we looked forward to was recess time, when we could go to the playground and run around everywhere. We were able to play on the swings sets, the slides, and the monkey bars. Kids these days still look forward to their time of play, but little do they know that the mulch they are stepping in is dangerous to their health.

In most playgrounds, “rubber mulch”, as people have called it, is replacing the “gravel and wood chips” (1) that previously covered the floors of outdoor playgrounds. Research shows that this will cushion the fall of a child much better than either of the previously used materials. The Rubber Manufacturers Association, as well as the US government, say that it is the “safest thing for a kid to fall into.”  What could go wrong with the recycled shredded tires cushioning the falls of young children in playgrounds?

A lot of things can go wrong. Although many have “concluded that there are no negative effects from having the mulch on the ground, it was later discovered that there are carcinogenic chemicals that children are coming in contact with on the ground. There have been families affected by the chemicals emitted by the tires. A landscaper who had recently put in rubber mulch in his front yard didn’t realize the harmful effects of the product until months later. After a while, he saw that his wife and daughter were getting sick, though none of them knew the reason why. The doctors later concluded that it was because of the mulch outside of his house. Under the sun, noxious, odorless fumes, like carbon monoxide, would be released. They didn’t know of the harmful effects of the mulch, but unfortunately, the wife and daughter now have “lifelong immune system deficiencies similar to the effects of the AIDS virus” (2). Surely after this account, agencies around the nation should be getting rid of the rubber infill of the playgrounds. However, this is not the case.

Parents all over the country are worried about their children’s health but the government has chosen to do nothing about it. Several agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, recommend the investigation of these shredded tires, but they also advocate the use of these tires. They say that it has been proven to be safe and it protects children from injuries. Therefore, according to the EPA and the CPSC, there is no need for the rubber mulch to leave the playgrounds.

In response to this, parents have realized that it is up to them to change the look of playgrounds so that their children can play safely and not inhale harmful chemicals. Vanesza Farmer saw how the rubber was affecting her daughter and so she met up with other parents to research about this material and now hopes to make a change. Jennifer Head, another parent opposed to the rubber infill, has made the decision to take her child to playgrounds that don’t have the noxious fumes all around. She stated that “as long as long as rubber infill remains unregulated and unstudied by government agencies, we have to be independent thinkers… If they’re not going to do it, then we have to put the dots together ourselves” (1).

Bibliography:

Rappleye, Hannah, Stephanie Gosk, and Monica Alba. “Is Rubber Mulch a Safe Surface for Your Child’s Playground?” NBC News. N.p., 2 Dec. 2014. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

“Rubber Mulch: The Dangers Of This Seemingly Innocent Product.” Grillo Services RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

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