WASHINGTON (June 4, 2009)—Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an environmental group consisting of local, state and federal scientists, land managers and law enforcement officials, is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revoke its endorsement of playground fill made from shredded scrap tires until it completes research into the material's health and environmental effects.
However, the Rubber Manufacturers Association accused PEER of sensationalizing the evidence on crumb rubber playground surfacing for its own purposes.
“They say EPA is having second thoughts about scrap tires as playground surfacing,” said Michael Blumenthal, RMA senior vice president. “But they haven't even had first thoughts about it! There is no official EPA position on the use of shredded tires in playgrounds.”
PEER released several EPA documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, including one from EPA Region 8 in Denver expressing concern over the volatile organic content of tire crumb, its respirable particles and its potential flammability.
Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson criticizing the agency for not releasing documents describing the status of continuing limited field studies on scrap tire playground surfacing and not scheduling a workshop proposed last year to coordinate research and health monitoring of scrap tire playground surfacing with other federal and state agencies.
“The essential point is that contact with these ingredients can't be good,” Ruch said. “The question is how much contact is there. We are trying to goose the EPA into further action.”
Blumenthal said both the EPA documents and the original Associated Press story on them were neutral. “All they said was that the EPA was studying the issue further,” he said. “But then the media got hold of the story and presented it negatively, with phrases like, 'Are your children playing on hazardous tires?' That was totally inappropriate.”
Last year the RMA released a review of 126 scientific documents on the health and environmental effects of shredded tires in playground surfacing. It concluded that scrap tires have no harmful effects when used in playgrounds. Ruch said he had not seen the RMA study, but added he wasn't surprised that an industry-funded study would be favorable to the material.