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This is my fourth diary on the issue of rubber mulch, which has become part of the White House playscape, where Sasha and Malia Obama and their friends play.

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.

There is NEW news about this topic:

The Associated Press has published a story today entitled

INSIDE WASHINGTON: Gov't studies playground risks

For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has endorsed the use of ground-up tires to cushion the surfaces of children's playgrounds and sports fields — a decision now being reconsidered because of concerns among the agency's own scientists about possible health threats.

The concerns are disclosed in internal agency documents about a study the EPA is conducting of air and surface samples at four fields and playgrounds that use recycled tires — the same material that cushions the ground under the Obama family's new play set at the White House.

President and Mrs. Obama - a public advocacy group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) obtained a January 2008 EPA memo that said that "until more was known, the EPA should take a neutral stance instead of sanctioning tires for play areas."

President and Mrs. Obama - This memo went out BEFORE you installed your playground, and BEFORE the National Recreation and Park Association recommended rubber mulch for your children's playscape.

Why didn't the National Recreation and Park Association check with the EPA instead of - or at least along with - the Consumer Product Safety Commission before they told you that rubber mulch was the thing to put where your children play?

PEER is not a fringe group.  It describes itself as

a service organization assisting federal & state public employees, PEER allows public servants to work as "anonymous activists" so that agencies must confront the message, rather than the messenger.

In the memo that PEER obtained, according to the article -

The EPA scientists cited gaps in scientific evidence, despite other reviews showing little or no health concern. They urged their superiors to conduct a broad health study to inform parents on kids'safety

Results from the agency's limited study, which began last year, are expected within weeks.

The material your daughters are playing on is currently being investigated by state scientists in Connecticut and the Environmental Protection Agency.

I repeat that you should act in a precautionary way to protect the health of your daughters and their friends until a health study has been conducted to determine whether this product poses a hazard to human and environmental health.

I have written this diary on a political website because I know that members of the Obama Administration read this site and that this information may cut through channels to get to the Obamas more quickly than it would via regular routes available to me as a private citizen without inside connections to media or the White House.

Also, as role models for us all, the Obamas have chosen to use this product on their playground.  This is being used by industry and media representatives and by private citizens as proof that the product is safe and desirable, even as state and federal scientists are investigating it.

I hope the Obamas will reconsider their decision and switch to wood chips while the recycled rubber mulch is under investigation.

Camille Johnston - If you read this, please allow the Obamas to see this information, so they can act in an informed, precautionary, and responsible way to safeguard the health of their children.

[UPDATE - Friday, June 5, 2:23 a.m.] -

Earlier last evening, Environment News Service published an article on-line that gave more details of the memo that was provided by the EPA in response to a FOIA request by PEER:

A January 2008 memo to EPA Headquarters from the Denver office states that EPA Region 8 has identified potential hazards to children playing on surfaces made of tire crumb that include toxics entering the lungs from particulates, fibers, volatile organic compounds and latex.

Toxics ingested by children at play may include heavy metals and dyes, the memo indicates.

"It appears that there are valid reasons to take a broader perspective of all potential risks associated with crumb rubber" through an extensive study, said the memo from Assistant Regional Administrator Stephen Tuber.

PEER wants action from the EPA -

PEER is asking EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to revoke the EPA's endorsement of tire crumb until the research has concluded that it is safe for children and issue an interim public health advisory.

Jackson is also urged to outline a coordinated approach, working with other agencies, for assessing risk.

"If Ms. Jackson does not respond, PEER will ask the appropriations panels handling the EPA budget to mandate these actions," Ruch said.

In addition, Houston News reported last evening -

There are a range of studies that suggest the rubber mulch is either safe or unsafe depending on who you talk to. But there is nothing specific that has studied the chemicals that are inside this rubber.

The EPA says chemicals that might be contained in the recycled tires include arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, lead and benzene.

In the 2008 memo, the EPA said "unable to identify data to adequately address our concerns."

[UPDATE - Tuesday, June 16]

Here is a copy, posted by PEER, of the January 17, 2008 EPA Memo entitled Potential Risks of Tire Crumb.

Originally posted to Patricia Taylor on Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 10:28 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips/Flames/Gotta Go (7+ / 0-)

    now to do some household errands so I won't be viewing comments for a bit.

    Please see previous diaries and the information they contain before flaming too hot and high!

  •  Kids make contact with it with shoes.... (0+ / 0-)

    which seems to be a barrier.  Just walking on a lawn or park that has recently had some treatment, fertilizer or insecticide, would create a similar potential danger.

    Barefooted is another issue.  

    •  Chemicals (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      arodb, second gen, BYw

      in the recycled tires are out-gassing and leaching from the pellets, mulch, and the rubber dust in these products.

      Kids don't just walk in shoes on their playground surfaces, either.  They run, jump, roll, fall, dig, slide, and throw mulch at each other.

      Look at the pictures that come along with the article.

      •  This stuff is everywhere..... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Patricia Taylor, BYw

        and even the soft cushioning is recycled tires, I believe.

        It's a shame this hasn't been researched long ago.

        Glad you brought it up.

        I would guess grass is ideal.  But in the southwest water for such lawns is becoming less available.  

    •  How many kids do you know who merely walk (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Patricia Taylor, BYw

      on a playground? None that I know.

      They run, they fall (hands first) they do a faceplant every now and again, get it in their mouth. Touch their hands to their mouths, go have lunch after, not always remembering to wash their hands.

      I don't understand the pushback against this.  If there's  a possibility that it will poison our kids, why risk it? There are other ways to deal with and recycle tires. I don't believe under our children's feet is one of them.

      Your argument sounds much like our local electric plant who has a coal fly ash dump problem: "Sure, it leaks into the ground, and into the water, but it doesn't reach the aquifer that we use to supply water to our city."

      Never takes into consideration the farm land nearby, or the wells that may be contaminated.

      Utter bullshit.

      Beware the lollipop of mediocrity: lick it once and suck forever.

      by second gen on Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 10:57:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a parent, I was more worried about falls. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brooke In Seattle

    I know too many children with broken limbs, concussions, and other injuries on the hard surfaces of my youth.  I played in playgrounds with hard-packed dirt, gravel, asphalt, and concrete.  

    Rubber mulch is much prepared, in my mind, because of the lessened impact when children fall.  Given how much chemical exposure we have in this society anyway, the rubber mulch playground is a risk of much lesser magnitude than traumatic brain injury from a fall.  Or spinal cord injuries.

    To say my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, "Your end of the boat is sinking."--Hugh Downs

    by Dar Nirron on Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 11:04:47 AM PDT

    •  This is a specious argument (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Patricia Taylor, BYw

      working on the assumption that the only low impact playground surface is rubber mulch.  It is not an "either/or" situation.  There are many safer surfaces out there to choose from.

      "Most fools don't understand my worldview." - Ignatius J. Reilly

      by impygirl on Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 11:17:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Dar - (0+ / 0-)

      Look at this from the University of Arkansas -

      Player injuries

                 There is a lack of research comparing injuries incurred on new in-fill artificial fields vs. natural grass fields (5). There are data indicating that the traditional artificial turf fields increased athlete injury, primarily due to increased surface hardness.

      Although actual data are not available, anecdotal data are available from NFL players. Players were asked in a 2006 survey "Which surface do you think causes more soreness and fatigue to play on?".

      Five-percent felt like natural grass systems increased fatigue, while 74% felt that artificial turf systems were more responsible for fatigue (5). Twenty-one percent felt they were the same. In the open comments section of the survey, the most common comment was "make all fields grass to prevent injuries."

      You may be making an incorrect risk/benefit analysis weighing environmental risks against benefit due to protection from head injuries.

      The benefit you perceive may not outweigh the risk from chemical exposure.  A health study needs to be done to determine whether, over the last five years (of the new generation of synthetic turf and recycled rubber products like rubber mulch) more kids have been injured from being exposed to chemicals in these products than were saved from head injuries and also whether synthetic turf actually affords more protection from such head injuries than well-maintained natural grass fields.

      Now I am REALLY, REALLY going to go do laundry and make beds!!!

      •  Since when will GRASS grow under a swingset-- (0+ / 0-)

        I mean, one that is actually USED?

        If the football players had to play on hard packed earth, they would want the infill back!

        To say my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, "Your end of the boat is sinking."--Hugh Downs

        by Dar Nirron on Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 01:19:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Why didn't they read these obscure studies?!? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dar Nirron

    The outrage in this diary is amusing.  I think the diarist is taking this way too seriously.

  •  common sence (0+ / 0-)

    . . . would dictate that ground up rubber tires and the steel, lead and other compounds they contain would be inherently harmful: it aint rocket surgery.

    We had no grass on my playground as a kid. . . just dirt and lots of it. Funny thing, kids can and do play in dirt and they sometimes get injured. I would rather have kid with a sore elbow than cancer or brain problems from lead exposure.

  •  So what do we do with the blasted things? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Patricia Taylor, BYw

    Can't bury them, can't burn them, now we can't even recycle them.

    Has sweet concord o'er taken blackest woe?

    by QuaintIrene on Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 11:47:28 AM PDT

  •  I grew up running around in the woods (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Patricia Taylor

    no rubber mulch there.

    I have a certain amount of trouble with the idea that natural surfaces in natural environments are too dangerous for children to play on and in. After all, we evolved doing so for a couple-three million years.

    Yes, childhood has its risks, but do we really want to eliminate all of them? Isn't growing up partly about learning risk management?

    "You will not become a saint through other people's sins." - Chekhov

    by mieprowan on Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 10:18:30 PM PDT

    •  Dr. William Crain (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mieprowan

      wrote a great op-ed piece in the NY Timesin 2007 that touches upon the topic of how important nature is to childhood development.

      When children do get outside, it is usually to play organized sports. Until recently, sports gave children at least some contact with nature. But now, with the widespread installation of synthetic turf fields, even this contact with nature is being reduced.

      Children’s alienation from nature is not something to take lightly. A growing body of research suggests that children need contact with greenery for their mental development. Natural settings help them develop their senses and powers of observation. Nature also stimulates children’s creativity; much of their poetry and artwork, for example, is inspired by grass, trees, water, wind, birds and other animals. Furthermore, natural settings have a calming effect on children.

      Grass playing fields, of course, expose children to nature to only a limited degree. When it comes to stimulating a child’s senses and imagination, playing fields don’t compare to forests. Still, a grass field can be beneficial to children, especially when adults give them time and opportunity to play in their own ways. After informal games, youngsters often relax on the field, fiddling with blades of grass, weeds and dirt. One 11-year-old told me she likes to toss blades of grass into the air and imagine they are "grass angels." I’ve also had children tell me how much they like lying on the grass and looking up at the sky.

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