US agencies release status report for crumb rubber study

Three US federal agencies have released a status update on their ongoing effort to evaluate the safety of recycled tire crumb used in athletic fields and playgrounds.

The joint initiative by the EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) comes in response to growing concern over the safety of “crumb rubber”.

The material has been found to contain heavy metals, carbon black, benzothiazole, and other substances of potential concern. And although studies to date have not shown an elevated health risk, the agencies say that these “have limitations and do not comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks from exposure”.

The 30 December status report includes the final appraisal of peer-reviewed literature and data gaps analysis report, covering some 90 references.

It also describes the progress to date on the agencies’ efforts on:

  • the characterization of the chemicals found in tire crumb;
  • exposure scenarios;
  • research to better understand how children use playgrounds containing it; and
  • stakeholder outreach.

Regarding the chemicals’ characterization, laboratory analyses are underway to measure the amounts of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic chemicals (SVOCs) emitted from tire crumb rubber samples, under different temperature conditions. The study will include bioaccessibility measurements to better understand how the substances may be absorbed in the body.

Microbial pathogens are also being evaluated.

Analysis of the samples collected from fields and recycling facilities, and the exposure characterization component of the study, will continue in the new year. Results are expected before the end of 2017.

A CPSC playground study is also ongoing.

Meanwhile, states and localities continue to adopt bans on the installation of crumb rubber-infilled fields.

The EU, too, has begun to focus on the material. Echa issued a call for evidence in November, despite a Dutch agency recently determining that the adverse health effects from its use are “negligible”.

California synthetic turf study meeting

Separately, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (Oehha) has tentatively scheduled the next meeting of its synthetic turf scientific advisory panel for 10 March.

The panel is providing input on the agency’s study assessing the potential health impacts associated with the use of synthetic turf and playground mats made of crumb rubber.

This will focus on identifying chemicals that may be released, and on estimating exposures to users of synthetic turf fields. The agency is also exploring the feasibility of a future biomonitoring study to measure exposures to chemicals.

The panel meeting will be open to the public and webcast.