Their playground surface was made from 1,400 used tires. The tires were ground up and dyed green and called rubber mulch.
Rubber mulch is not good for children or gardens because ground up rubber tires have lots of toxins in them.
I am posting part of the article and the link (above) in the hope that White House spokesperson Camille Johnston presents the information to the Obamas so they can make an informed decision about what Sasha and Malia and their friends are playing on.
It's not enough that the White House checked with the rubber industry, who of course claim their product is safe. Sasha and Malia's parents should find out what is bothering independent scientists like the ones at EHHI about the use of shredded rubber tires where children play.
From Toxic mulch means White House play area not fun and games by Nancy Alderman -
First of all, ground up rubber tires are filled with a number of toxic chemicals and these chemicals are capable of leaching out of the tires. Secondly, the rubber absorbs heat and gets very hot in the warmer months. Temperatures have been measured at many times hotter than the grass around the rubber tire material. Some people have measured synthetic turf fields with ground-up rubber tires at 161 degrees when the outdoor temperature was 91 degrees. At the same time, a parking lot was measured at 111 degrees.
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven has analyzed a sample of ground-up rubber tires and found major toxic compounds. One is a skin and eye irritant, one is a recognized carcinogen and another is harmful to mucous membranes.
Other well-known chemicals that are often found in rubber tires include benzene, which is a carcinogen; phthalates, which are suspected to cause harm to reproductive systems; and latex, which can cause allergic reactions in some people.
I have also written to Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.
Alice forged the local/organic food movement in the United States. She advocated for an organic garden at the White House, which Michelle Obama planted with children last week.
It is incongruous that Mrs. Obama's children play on rubber mulch, even as their organic garden grows nearby.
Here is the text of my letter to Ms. Waters:
Dear Ms. Waters:
I was moved to see that Michelle Obama planted an organic garden at the White House last week. You were featured in the coverage of that event. I have no doubt you are primarily responsible for this important example set by our First Family to the American people that eating good food, home grown without the use of chemicals, is important to our health and crucial for the environment.
I am a U.C. Berkeley graduate. Some of my fondest memories of my years at Berkeley are of eating several meals (small ones because of financial constraints) at Chez Panisse. This was back in 1978 through 1980, when it was still possible to consider your restaurant a wonderful neighborhood surprise and when we could sometimes come in late in the evening to sit and savor a salad and dessert. The boyfriend who introduced me to your food, who was otherwise something of a jerk, will remain with love in my heart for the meals I shared with him at your place. I am now a mother of three children, living in Connecticut.
These memories and the footage of how moved you were that there was an organic garden at the White House have compelled me to write this letter to you in the human hope that you may actually be able to reach out to Michelle Obama with information about the playground mulch made of shredded rubber tires that has been installed in the White House playground, where Sasha and Malia and their friends play.
I became educated about products made from shredded rubber tires when my own son, Liam, came home from school one day in the spring of 2007, sporting small black pellets on his skin and clothing. These pellets were crumb rubber that was used as infill on the synthetic turf playing field where he played soccer during his physical education class. I had just read an article in my local newspaper that New Jersey scientists had found PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic) in crumb rubber tested in their lab. I was so disturbed about what I’d read and what I’d seen on my son that I contacted a Connecticut environmental education and advocacy group called Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI). I asked them some questions. As a result of my questions and those of another mother in Westport, EHHI launched an investigation into crumb rubber infill and rubber mulch.
While it may seem "green" to use recycled tires as a cushion for the White House playground, in fact, children shouldn’t be exposed to shredded rubber because of the hazard it may pose to their health. I believe that this use of rubber where their daughters are playing is inconsistent with the Obamas’ publicly stated concern and regard for the environment and its impact on human health. I also believe they wouldn’t want Sasha and Malia exposed to the stuff if they knew what I know about it.
This decision for the White House playground surface is not under review even though EHHI has reached out to the White House with information about on-going studies. EHHI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting human health from environmental harms through research, education and the promotion of sound public policy. The group is made up of doctors, public health professionals and policy experts committed to the reduction of environmental health risks to individuals.
I have written the White House, too. I am enclosing a Chicago Tribune article that quotes the First Lady’s Communications Director as saying that the rubber mulch stays on the Obama children’s playground. I don’t feel that an issue pertaining to Sasha and Malia’s health is best left to an expert in communications. Their parents should be allowed to make this decision for their children, informing themselves adequately on the concerns being presented by independent scientists and not simply relying on the word of the rubber industry that their unregulated product is safe.
This material is not mulch at all. It consists primarily of rubber tires that have been shredded and dyed. Rubber mulch, along with shredded rubber in the forms of crumb rubber infill and chunk rubber (different consistencies for different uses) is being used on artificial playing fields, in natural grass athletic fields, in playgrounds, gardens, lawns, and agricultural fields all over the globe. These uses of recycled rubber tires have been developed by the Rubber Manufacturing Association, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, to dispose of the hundreds of millions of rubber tires produced every year, everywhere. In the United States, roughly one tire per person per year must be disposed of – that’s about 300 million tires we must get rid of every year here in the U.S. We can’t landfill these tires in most states without treating them as "special waste." Unfortunately, because of a reinterpretation of the Clean Air Act in the 1990’s, these tires are being dumped not in landfills but in our communities – shredded and spread where human beings live, play, and grow their food.
I don’t know if you’ve read anything about the emerging health concerns pertaining to this shred and spread scheme, made public in the recent past and presently by independent scientists, environmental groups, and worried parents. The matter may well interest you as it pertains to the use of rubber mulch in gardens, yards, and farms, as well as where children play.
The use of rubber mulch where food grows is the ANTITHESIS of what you stand for and what you’ve worked so hard to do.
For more information about the investigation being done in Connecticut, please visit www.ehhi.org/turf. I am sure that Nancy Alderman, the President of EHHI, would be glad to talk to you or Michelle Obama to define the health concerns that her group has helped uncover. I have enclosed EHHI’s list of chemicals of concern in recycled rubber products.
I’ve also attached a recent letter written by Dr. Philip Landrigan that was published in the New York/tri-state area. The letter expresses his informed scientific opinion regarding synthetic turf fields, including his concern about crumb rubber infill as part of these fields. Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., M.Sc., the Ethel Wise Professor and Chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, is a pediatrician, epidemiologist, and internationally recognized leader in public health and preventive medicine. He has been a member of the faculty of Mount Sinai School of Medicine since 1985 and Chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine since 1990. Dr. Landrigan is also the Director of the Children's Environmental Health Center.
I have included Nancy Alderman’s contact information at the bottom of this letter. I hope you will contact her, hear the information she can give you, and act as a trusted liaison in this matter between Nancy and Michelle Obama. I trust your moral compass because of your public advocacy for human health and the environment.
My feelings for my own children and their friends are extended to our First Family in that I abhor the idea that the Obama children risk exposure to something that may hurt them while they play, especially when it is so easy to avoid such harm.
Link to Chicago Tribune article mentioned in my letter above.
CHEMICALS OF CONCERN
According to Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), a Connecticut advocacy and education group made up of scientists, doctors, and former public health officials, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has analyzed a sample of ground-up rubber tires and found:
Benzothiazole: Skin and eye irritation, harmful if swallowed. There is no available data on cancer, mutagenic toxicity, teratogenic toxicity, or developmental toxicity.
Butylated hydroxyanisole: Recognized carcinogen, suspected endocrine toxicant, gastrointestinal toxicant, immunotoxicant (adverse effects on the immune system), neurotoxicant (adverse effects on the nervous system), skin and sense-organ toxicant. There is no available data on cancer, mutagenic toxicity, teratogenic toxicity, or developmental toxicity.
n-hexadecane: Severe irritant based on human and animal studies. There is no available data on cancer, mutagenic toxicity, teratogenic toxicity, or developmental toxicity.
4-(t-octyl) phenol: Corrosive and destructive to mucous membranes. There is no available data on cancer, mutagenic toxicity, teratogenic toxicity, or developmental toxicity.
Zinc: There is a very large amount of zinc that is added in the manufacturing of tires and therefore there is a great deal of zinc.
Other chemicals that are often found in rubber tires are:
Benzene: Carcinogen, Developmental Toxicant, Reproductive Toxicant
Phthalates: Suspected Developmental Toxicant, Endocrine Toxicant, Reproductive Toxicant
PAHs: Suspected Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant, Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Reproductive Toxicant, Respiratory Toxicant
Manganese: Gastrointestinal or liver toxicants
Carbon Black: Carcinogen
Latex: Causes allergic reactions in some people
PHILIP LANDRIGAN'S LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The Journal News, Letter to the Editor
Artificial turf fields pose safety issues
• December 11, 2008
Artificial turf fields pose safety issues
I urge the Irvington school district not to adopt the use of artificial turf until further examination.
There are several hundred artificial turf fields on the East Coast. Towns and school districts installed them to improve the quality of playing fields and accommodate sports programs. However, they were pursued without analysis of potential negative consequences. A number of these very expensive fields have been installed and we are suddenly, and belatedly, beginning to realize they may lead to health problems, such as:
- Extreme heat. On hot summer days, temperatures of over 130 degrees Fahrenheit have been recorded a few feet above the surface of synthetic turf fields - the altitude where children play. Vigorous play in these conditions conveys a very real risk of heat stress or heat stroke.
- MRSA skin infections. Outbreaks of skin infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus have been documented in children who play on synthetic turf fields (New England Journal of Medicine, February 2005).
- Chemical hazards to human health and the environment. Crumb rubber, a major component of current generation synthetic turf fields, is typically made from ground-up recycled tires containing styrene and 1, 3-butadiene, the major constituents of synthetic rubber. Styrene is toxic to the nervous system, and butadiene is a proven human carcinogen.
Lead was recently found in synthetic turf fields in New Jersey at levels so high that several fields were closed by the state Health Department. Citizens and school boards should question the wisdom of installing synthetic turf until a credible independent study has been conducted and published.
Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., M.Sc
The writer is professor of pediatrics and director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.