Playgrounds That Use Recycled Rubber – Too Toxic for little Timmy?

I read an article in USA today the other day about the dangers of rubber play surfaces.  You know – the recycled rubber that you see at outdoor playgrounds.  The stuff that is probably even put into the mouths of some of the more “adventuresome” children.   Apparently, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of recycled rubber in playgrounds back in 1991 as a way of preventing tires from ending up in landfills.

But the EPA says that it can’t assure the safety of this rubber.  The rubber can contain lead and other toxins.  Wait a minute!  Now I understand that dumping rubber into landfills is not environmentally friendly, sure.  But where do we dump it instead?  The place where we find our most precious resources – children!  Surely there has to be a better place to use recycled rubber. The reasoning behind using it in playgrounds is that it provides a safer surface for preventing injuries.  A study published in the Lancet in 1997 found that rubber playground surfaces were safest.  But again I ask, is there not another material that can be used that is as safe with regard to injuries, yet much safer with regard to toxic contamination?

It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.  With all the latest studies discovering that toxins are much more harmful in children than we ever thought, why are we putting our children at risk? I realize that with all the warnings of toxins everywhere, it can make you not want to leave the house (I won’t get into the toxins found indoors at this point, that’s another topic).  But it is virtually impossible to avoid each and every toxin in our environment these days.

I’d like to recommend a few safety measure when it comes to this recycled rubber.

  • If you can find a playground that doesn’t use recycled rubber, great!
  • Maybe head to a park that doesn’t have a playground, but instead a nature trail, river, or open field.  Put your imagination in full gear and explore nature.  You might be amazed at what you find, and what you and your child learn!
  • If you can’t avoid the rubber playground, don’t beat yourself up.  Just be vigilant.  If you have a toddler, make sure that the rubber pieces stay on the ground.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after playing.
  • Perhaps avoid the playground at the hottest hours of the day, between 10 and 2 pm.
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