Rubber is everywhere, all around us. It’s also used as one type of filler in artificial turf, which has raised an immense amount of questions regarding its safety and impact on our environment. As rubber is all around us, it’s true that it plays a vital role in everyday life. It’s in so much more than your vehicle tires, it can even be found in nearly every room in your house from your kitchen to your bedroom, to your pool outside. Rubber exists in places you may have never even thought of before, and it’s definitely a part of artificial lawns and playgrounds.
Where Does Crumb Rubber Come From?
Artificial turf utilizes crumb rubber that primarily comes from worn car tires. Over the last several decades, over 46 billion tires have been purchased and eventually worn out. Only a small fraction of those tires have found their way back into use as crumb filling. Crumb rubber, aside from vehicle tires, is also used in capacities such as highway, sidewalk, and building construction. Tires are shredded and “crumbed” before being laid down as filler.
Safety Health Concerns
The main safety issue that has arisen in regards to crumb rubber in artificial turf is due to the use of specific organic and non-organic materials that make up vehicle tires. Since tires are shredded and “crumbed” before being laid as filler, many believe that the shredding process exposes a much larger surface area than if the tires were kept intact. The thought is, that as more of the surface tire area is exposed, more chemicals and substance can seep from the rubber. There is also speculation that the use of crumb rubber originated from recycled vehicle tires can lead to cancer and other health issues.
Safety Testing and Conclusions
Tires manufacturing and crumb rubber filler in artificial turf has been tested to rule out any safety issues. Tire manufacturing is made up of certain accelerators such as carbon black, silica, sulphur and halobutyl, to name a few. Many of the substances used in the manufacturing of tires pose modest health hazards if they are exposed to outside elements. However, when they are in the construction of vehicle tires, that health risk is limited due to the immense amount of compression that is holding all of the tire materials together. In reality, tire rubber is tightly compressed in order to form a resilient, impervious material. Think about it…tires HAVE to be made up materials that can withstand an enormous amount of pressure while our vehicles travel down highways. Since this compressed material makes up our tires, it’s highly improbable that any chemicals or substances would be able to leak out of the rubber once it has been “crumbed”.
Risk assessments often exaggerate the risk by overestimating the number of exposures to high-risk substances. However, the studies conducted to test the safety of the crumb rubber filler in regards to air toxicity and harmful substances, have shown to be below the standards set by regulatory programs.
After extensive testing, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Radium Hospital released the following statement: “Recycled rubber granulate contains many chemical substances which are potentially harmful to health. On the basis of estimated exposure values and the doses/concentrations which can cause harmful effects in humans or in animal experiments, it is concluded that the use of artificial turf does not cause any elevated health risk. This applies to children, older children, juniors, and adults.”
Artificial turf, which utilizes crumb rubber, has proven to be a cost-effective alternative for residential and business lawns, as well as, playgrounds and ball fields. With installations on the rise and more and more testing being conducted to ensure safety, it has been continually proven that crumb rubber filler used in turf causes minimal health issues. The main difference to be considered is that when used as surface material for playgrounds, children and adults have direct contact with the crumb rubber material. When used as filler for artificial turf, there is minimal contact. In both circumstances, there have been few reports of illness or disease associated with direct contact with crumbed rubber. So, get outside and play, it’s OK!