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Many School Playgrounds Have a Toxic Secret

In the never-ending quest to cut costs, schools are always looking for ways to lower maintenance needs. They seem to have succeeded in doing this with playgrounds by replacing the old school, hard rubber tiles with those cushy crumb rubber surfaces. If you have ever fallen on that black rubber tile surface you know it leaves nasty scrapes and burns, and can still knock the wind out of you with a good fall.

Unfortunately, crumb rubber may not be all it was meant to be, either.

What exactly is crumb rubber?

Crumb rubber is made of shredded, used tires. Those tiny pieces are used to create cushioned surfaces for everything from football fields or walking paths at parks, to running tracks and playground surfaces at elementary schools. It is supposed to offer greater cushioning. It also fills in cracks nicely, which keeps maintenance costs low.

There are dangerous chemicals in crumb rubber

Tires contain toxic chemicals that are not exactly child-friendly, much less earth friendly, and have the potential to cause serious injury to your child. When they become heated, the chemicals can leach into the ground and be absorbed into water supplies or be released as gasses into the air, which are picked up by wind.

Just some of the chemicals contained in crumb rubber include carbon black, petroleum, cadmium, lead, zinc, and dibenzopyrenes.

  • Carbon black is used to color the tire rubber, and exposure has the potential to cause lung irritation, coughing, and even lung cancer.
  • Cadmium is used in industrial materials when processing metals. Exposure can also cause lung irritation, but consuming contaminated food or water can lead to stomach irritation. Cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, kidney damage or kidney stones can occur with long term exposure.

There are some pretty serious health issues that exposure to crumb rubber can cause. Concerns about cancer stemming from carcinogenic materials used in tires have become more serious over the years while more and more studies are being conducted. There is also some debate whether cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (“MRSA”) increase when someone infected comes in contact with the rubber material. MRSA can become deadly, making this one of the most serious health risks related to crumb rubber use. Further risks related to neurological conditions have been raised due to some of the chemical components involved.

The crumb rubber industry claims this material is safe while scientists have concerns over continuing to allow children to play on it.

Who would you trust?

How you can protect your child

Short of gathering enough concerned parents who can force the school district to find a safer alternative, you may have no control over whether your child comes in contact with crumb rubber at school. Because different chemicals enter the body by either touch, ingestion, or inhalation, your best course of immediate action is to teach your child safe practices when they have been in contact with the toxic surface material.

  • Make sure your child understands not to put the rubber in his/her mouth for any reason, including refraining from putting hands in his/her mouth.
  • Teach your child not to bring food near the playground surface and to always wash his/her hands well before touching food.
  • Limit exposure when temperatures are high or the sun is strong, as it heats the rubber, making it more likely for chemicals to leach out.
  • Have your child change clothes as soon as she/he gets home from school, particularly if you see any tire residue or particles on clothing.

If you believe your child has become ill or injured due to a playground-related injury in Georgia, get the advice that you need from attorneys who understand your concerns. Make arrangements for a free case evaluation with Harris Lowry Manton LLP today through our contact page or by calling our Savannah office at 912-651-9967, or our Atlanta office at 404-961-7650 today.





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