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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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