Letters to the Editor

Crumb rubber is hazardous to our health

There is a wonderful new playground at the elementary school. However, a controversial product called “crumb rubber” was used as the ground cover. It was purchased in good faith at the recommendation of the playground manufacturer as the safest option.

It is small, black, broken chunks of used tires and has a strong chemical odor reminiscent of products that come with health warnings. The manufacturer has declared it safe and non-toxic.

Proponents of crumb rubber will point to industry funded studies showing the presence of known carcinogens and respiratory irritants at levels below legal thresholds. These studies look at only a small handful of samples and don’t consider the most troubling class of chemicals: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons.

David Brown (formerly of EPA, EHHI) who has done the only comprehensive review of all the crumb rubber studies internationally, has shown that in different samples, the levels of these chemicals can vary by a magnitude of 10 or even 100. His point is that we just don’t know what exposure our children are receiving from crumb rubber.

Sweden and Norway have decided that due to these “substances of very high concern,” crumb rubber “should not be used.” Italy is removing theirs. There are students and parents at Friday Harbor Elementary School who have experienced respiratory distress and skin irritation after being on the playground this year. Groups have organized against crumb rubber in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Friday Harbor.

There is an action plan for replacement of the crumb rubber with the same legally acceptable product that is used in the playground at the fairgrounds. This plan relies on an in-hand list of volunteers and would result in no additional fundraising or expense to the district due to commitment by the manufacturer to accept return of the crumb rubber for a refund.

If you would like more information on the studies mentioned or, more importantly, would be willing to add your name to a list requesting the School Board reconsider their decision to keep the crumb rubber, please contact me.

Arvid Lindstrum
Friday Harbor

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