A joint action plan to examine the safety of exposure to chemicals in recycled “crumb rubber” has been released by three federal agencies.
The announcement follows a letter from Congressional leaders calling on the EPA to examine the safety of the material – used in playgrounds and as synthetic turf infill – amid concerns on the chemicals it contains and anecdotal evidence linking repeated exposure to it with cancer.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have outlined a project to:
evaluate data and knowledge gaps;
test the materials to determine the chemicals present and their toxicity; and
conduct a pilot study to determine exposure under various use conditions.
The agencies plan to release preliminary findings and conclusions before the end of 2016.
Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a signatory to the Congressional letter, praised the action. He is hopeful that the cooperation will lead to a conclusive determination on crumb rubber safety.
But a non-profit organization that successfully pushed for the EPA and the CPSC to withdraw their previous safety endorsements of crumb rubber says the approach “will raise more questions than it answers”.
“While we are glad that chemical exposure to crumb rubber surfaces is finally drawing national attention, this ‘federal action plan’ does not appear designed to lead to actual action,” says Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The group has called on the CPSC to classify playground surfaces as a children’s product. Such a designation would trigger enforceable lead limits. It
has also proposed a moratorium on the construction of new crumb rubber in filled fields while research continues.
Proposition 65 citizen enforcement group the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has said that crumb rubber, made from recycled tires contains a “cocktail of toxic chemicals”, including:
carbon black; and
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has also initiated a study on the safety of the material. The EPA has said it will work with California and other states on these efforts.
OEHHA convened the first meeting of the agency’s Crumb Rubber Science Advisory Panel on February 8.