Health, the environment, and wildlife. These are only a few areas of life that the installation of crumb rubber (recycled tire rubber) on playgrounds and playing fields negatively affects. My goal in this letter is to effectively express the importance of establishing a moratorium on the use of recycled tire rubber (crumb rubber) at municipal and public school playgrounds.

Rubber possesses toxic and carcinogenic substances. This tremendously affects youth because they are both in the developmental stages of life and the ones using these playgrounds/playing fields most frequently. Inhaling rubber-related chemicals (carcinogens and irritants) can lead to neurological and developmental deficits for young children.

Not only that, but the more children come into contact with these chemicals, the more likely they are to experience lung damage and allergic reactions. What also must be kept in mind is the exposure that parents and families deal with when they are watching their kids on these same playgrounds and playing fields. It should be the responsibility of anyone proposing the use of crumb rubber to first demonstrate it is not harmful to humans, particularly children, and the environment.

Our environment is also a victim of crumb rubber. Crumb rubber, unlike alternatives like wood chips, grass, straw, or even coconut shavings, not only breaks down into harmful substances, but also lacks the nutrients that soil and insects need. It takes natural rubber 50-80 years to decompose and tire rubber even longer due to its overall structure and composition of materials. Tragically, when tire rubber mulch becomes worn out, that which can be collected is disposed of in landfills. Landfills then contain various and excessive amounts of pollution such as  decomposing crumb rubber, paints, solvents, toxic chemicals, and leachates all of which harm the environment, air, soils, and water. Disposal in landfills isn’t really “throwing away” as much as it is throwing harmful materials “out of sight” and “out of mind” without addressing the problems they pose.

Crumb rubber plays a part in the destruction of habitats for wildlife. It is flammable, difficult to extinguish, and burns faster than any other kind of mulch used.  If the material catches fire, it can burn any grass, shrubs, plants, or trees that animals in the vicinity, further harming wildlife habitat. Rubber mulch contains metal, organic contaminants, and is toxic. A human would not want their food or environment to be contaminated, so why should it be okay for animals and insects to live that way?

It is clear to see the negative influences that recycled tire rubber has on the health of humans, the environment, and wildlife. While crumb rubber might boost profits, money is not more important than health, especially children’s health. Unfortunately House Bill 5188, which establishes a moratorium on the use of recylced tire rubber, failed in this General Assembly session. Ideally it will be brought up again and will pass, protecting health, habitats, and wildlife in Connecticut.

Heath Pitt lives in Hartford.

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