Artificial Turf & Shredded Tires
Artificial turf fields are typically made of a permeable synthetic grass-like layer sitting atop anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 shredded tires, depending upon the size of the field. Upon impact, the tire crumb releases small fragments of tire crumb into the air where it lodges in athletes’ shoes, clothing, hair and ears. Playgrounds for young children often consist of painted tire crumb.
Beyond lead, shredded tires contain a host of other constituents such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury and a number of dangerous hydrocarbons, with potential toxicity to children.
In addition, there are growing concerns about chemical off-gassing, as well as dangerous temperature levels on fields that can become super-heated.
These exposure risks are largely unstudied and poorly understood. Nothing close to a comprehensive risk assessment has been conducted. No one doubts that children and athletes are exposed to the chemicals within tire-based fields. The only question is whether and under what circumstances this exposure could be harmful.
Under pressure from PEER, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn its safety endorsement for artificial turf. More recently, so has the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
PEER is also pressing CPSC to outlaw the artificial turf playgrounds due to lead levels above legal limits for a children’s product.
Nonetheless, there are an estimated 5,000 synthetic turf fields in the U.S. and many more playgrounds using shredded tires, with more being installed each month.