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Your Environment. Your Health.

Crumb Rubber in Playgrounds and Children's Health

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Crumb Rubber playground

Crumb Rubber in Playgrounds and Children’s Health

March 20, 2018

Interviewees: Robert Wright, M.D. and Homero Harari, Sc.D.

Recycled rubber artificial turf and similar products were introduced into athletic fields and playgrounds in the 1990s to make playing surfaces more comfortable. This recycled rubber comes from automobile tires, which are ground into very small rubber pellets, called crumb.

Scientists and doctors have expressed concern about crumb rubber use in play grounds and artificial turf because safety testing of these products has not been conducted, and tires are known to contain heavy metals, cancer-causing chemicals, and other toxic substances. Children can be exposed to the harmful substances in crumb rubber when the pellets touch their skin, when small pieces are accidentally swallowed, and when some of the chemicals are released from the rubber in the form of gas which can be inhaled, or enter the environment through leaching.

In this podcast, learn more about what scientists are doing to understand the health risks of crumb rubber in playgrounds, and what you can do to reduce children’s exposure to potentially harmful contaminants.

Interviewees

Robert (Bob) Wright, M.D.

Robert Wright, M.D., is a pediatrician and environmental epidemiologist at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He serves as the chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health as well as the director of the Institute of Exposomic Research, and the Children’s Environmental Health Center.

Wright wrote a Perspective on Recycled Rubber Playing Surfaces, where he and co-author Sara Evans, Ph.D., discussed the significant gaps in knowledge about the safety of crumb rubber playing surfaces. Several potential dangers discussed (and outlined in the Consumer Guide developed by Wright and colleagues), include impacts from extreme heat, inhalation and ingestion of chemicals in rubber, small rubber pieces that can be tracked into homes, and chemicals leaching into groundwater. Wright is a co-investigator on a project working with Homero Harari, Sc.D., Evans, and Maida Galvez, M.D. to characterize exposure to crumb rubber used in artificial turf fields.

Wright has published over 200 research studies, mainly focusing on environmental factors, such as exposures to chemical mixtures, that influence children’s health and neurodevelopment.

Homero Harari, Sc.D.

Homero Harari, Sc.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, and member of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai. Harari’s research focuses on understanding the chemical exposure effects of turf and crumb rubber on child health and development.

Harari is the lead investigator on the research study with Wright that is working to characterize exposure to crumb rubber used in artificial turf fields. This project involves community input to help identify research questions that are of particular interest.

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