EPA Examines Health Impact of Shredded Tires

Based on new research that shows shredded tires may release arsenic, lead and mercury into the products they are used in, the EPA is examining the safety of using them in applications such as playground surfacing.

Part of the investigation is a small-scale survey commissioned by the EPA. Its goal is to determine if children can suffer health risks from ingesting the toxic chemicals present in tires.

Photo: Southernledger.com

Added to soil under playing fields, crumb rubber improves drainage and root structure of grass. Ground rubber applications accounted for 12 percent of scrap tire use in 2005. Photo: Southernledger.com

In addition to playground surfacing, ground rubber is used as an additive for artificial turf, and the Center for Disease Control issued an advisory for potential lead contamination from this turf just last year.

While the investigation is underway, the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is requesting that the EPA remove its endorsement of using crumb rubber in consumer products.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association has responded that several studies show no health risks from using recycled rubber, and are calling this a “misinformation campaign.”

What’s in a Tire?

So how is this rubber containing toxic chemicals in the first place?

Part of this is the metal component of tires, which includes everything from the rim to lead weights that maintain wheel alignment. This metal must be removed by machinery after the tire is already shred into pieces.

As a result, it’s not uncommon to see tire recyclers that require rims to be removed prior to recycling.

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Trey Granger
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  1. Hello Trey,

    I’m not surprised to see such an examination from EPA, and I consider that such proximity with pollutants endangering health of persons and children is to avoid. But, what else is possible to do with used tires? My answer is to burn them in a cement facility which have been carefully examined and officially authorized to do so in a secure way and without any ash to dispose of. We have been into this full exercvise for the last 2 years, and have satisfied our environmental authorities on all points, which surprisingly gives less pollution than using only coal as fuel.

  2. Hello,
    I do not know the exact process in making tires, but am curious why arsenic is present. If possible, I guess something to consider now is since the tires may eventually be re used (reprocessed), if not using arsenic or other heavy metals is avoidable, that should become practice. Just a thought. Susan

  3. Reklaim Technologies of Bellevue, WA, shreds the tires, recovers the metals, and volatizes the rubber. It then recovers the gases and converts them to oil. Even the kevlar is recovered. This is much cleaner than burning the shredded rubber, and contributes in a small way to reducing the demand for foreign oil.

  4. Where exactly is the information coming from that the tires are still attached to the wheels when recycled? Tires have to be removed from the wheels before pick up. Tire companies won’t take tires on the wheel- and the scrap metal people who take the wheels won’t take them with tires on them. Also- I don’t remember ever seeing anything about the wheels themselves containing lead. The weights do contain lead. Many places are switching to zinc weights or stick on weights that are full of sand- but the majority of places still use lead weights. I believe the issue with metal in the tires is coming from the fact that tires have metal in them. Tires have layers of steel belts in them.
    I’m not trying to argue, just curious. I work in the automotive industry- and know about wheels and tires needing to be separate and fun stuff like that.
    As for the question of what to do with them- I’ve seen a lot of places that offer products made from recycled tires.

  5. Each tire companies have their own unique recipes for making each specific tires. All kinds of petro-chemicals are added to enhance their performance for specific purpose, such as long life, better gas mileage and road grip.

    Above mentioned waste tire processing called “pyrolisis” basically turns tires to all the usable materials without burning it. Therefore threre will be no CO2 emission from the process. A typical passenger tire will be decomposed to 4 parts: fuel oil and 6 parts: carbon black. This carbon can be further milled down to nano scale perticles, which can be used as nano-carbon material.

    Just FYI, the same pyrolisis plant can be used to break down waste plastics (7 parts fuel oil : 3 parts carbon black) to produce recycled fuel, by which diesel gen-sets can be run to generate electricity without producing much green house gases.

    While rubber is a renewable material, we should demand all waste tires to be processed in pyrolisis plant.

  6. Out of curiosity can this tire be re-used as new tire and I don’t mean by that to be re-threaded but the material itself can it be re-molded to new tire?

  7. Pingback: Holiday Garden Gift Recycled Tire Pots : Blisstree - Family, Health, Home and Lifestyles

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