Health and Environmental Concerns
Disease carrying pests such as rodents may live in tire piles. Mosquitoes can also breed in the stagnant water that collects inside tires. Several varieties of mosquitoes can carry deadly diseases, including encephalitis and dengue fever. Mosquito control and eradication programs—short of removing tire piles—are difficult. For more information on mosquito-borne diseases, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fire presents a second concern. Scrap tire fires are difficult to extinguish, and can burn for long periods. Tire fires release thick black smoke and can contaminate the soil with an oily residue. Tire fires generally start either as a result of arson or an accident. More information on tire fires.
Playgrounds and Synthetic Turf Fields
There have been concerns about the health implications of the use of recycled tire crumb in playgrounds and in synthetic turf athletic fields. In response to these concerns, EPA conducted a Scoping-Level Field Monitoring Study of Synthetic Turf Fields and Playgrounds. The final report was issued in 2009 and concluded that on average, concentrations of components monitored in this study were below levels of concern. To supplement this study’s limited data, EPA met with state and local representatives in 2010 to review other available field monitoring studies including a 2010 study conducted by the state of Connecticut which concluded that exposures and risks were not elevated (relative to what is commonly found in outdoor air) for either children or adults using the fields.
A 2010 report (PDF) (125 pp, 2.2MB) by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery examined the possible human health risks of outdoor athletic fields made from artificial turf containing recycled crumb rubber with respect to skin abrasions, bacteria harbored by the turf, inhalable particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds. The report concluded these fields do not pose a serious public health concern, with the possible exception of an increased skin abrasion rate on artificial turf relative to natural turf.
At this point, EPA does not believe that the field monitoring data collected provides evidence of an elevated health risk resulting from the use of recycled tire crumb in playgrounds or in synthetic turf athletic fields. Ultimately, the use of recycled tire crumb or any other playground materials is a state and local decision.