Based on new research that shows shredded tires may release arsenic, lead and mercury into the products they are used in, the EPA is examining the safety of using them in applications such as playground surfacing.
Part of the investigation is a small-scale survey commissioned by the EPA. Its goal is to determine if children can suffer health risks from ingesting the toxic chemicals present in tires.
In addition to playground surfacing, ground rubber is used as an additive for artificial turf, and the Center for Disease Control issued an advisory for potential lead contamination from this turf just last year.
While the investigation is underway, the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is requesting that the EPA remove its endorsement of using crumb rubber in consumer products.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association has responded that several studies show no health risks from using recycled rubber, and are calling this a "misinformation campaign."
What's in a Tire?
So how is this rubber containing toxic chemicals in the first place?
Part of this is the metal component of tires, which includes everything from the rim to lead weights that maintain wheel alignment. This metal must be removed by machinery after the tire is already shred into pieces.
As a result, it's not uncommon to see tire recyclers that require rims to be removed prior to recycling.