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Health Effects of Tire Rubber ExposureDate:2016-06-15

Recycled tire derived rubber is considered a tire-derived material (TDM) that is used as a feedstock material in the manufacturer of tire-derived products (TDP) and for a wide variety of end uses.  TDM is used in athletic, recreation and play surfaces intended to prevent injuries from impact with the surface during play or falls and lower extremity injuries from rotational and lateral friction.  The choice of using TDM is ultimately the decision of the owner.  Performance merits and proven lack of toxicity based on science will have little bearing on the choice should an owner’s community or political pressure dictate otherwise.  As a result we are providing information, history and choices that may help an owner or community make choices that best meet their needs.

Standards, studies, regulations and application of logic are keys to developing when and where recycled tire rubber is appropriate.  How and who are writing the standards, studies and regulations are important to credibility and acceptance given by the reader and subsequently user of the products.  A problem with a raw material as specific as tire rubber is that studies are expensive and sometimes the only funder is a manufacturer or group of manufactures or their trade association with a true interest in knowing the properties of the raw materials meets the requirements of the customer.  Unfortunately this has sometimes caused readers and organizations to view the report with skepticism and question whether the study is comprehensive enough.  There are also those in the study business, who will always find fault with someone else’s work, or raise obscure questions that promote their business and add nothing to the science or add positively to knowledge or advance the state of the art.

Tires have long been consider a major environmental problem, not from a toxicity point of view, but disposal.  Tire piles have built up over decades, which at first were unique pictures of the emerging industrial world post WWII, until tire fires polluted the air and ground water and caused government agencies around the world to take on change.  The first effort was to embrace the first R of recycling, which is reduce through longer lasting tires by extending the life of the tire on the road through better chemistry and more durable manufacturing.  A second effort was to take a better built carcass that allowed for the grinding down the outer skin and recapping it.  This effort reduced the waste stream between 40-60%, but ultimately tires are no longer functional as a safe carrier of vehicles on roads and they are removed.  To some extent the next stage of recycling emerged, reuse.  Tires that are no longer able to withstand the rigors of the road system, could still be used in agriculture and some emerging economies, but this did not solve the problem as it involved a small quantity and eventually these tires also ended in the dumps.  The problem with end of life tires is not toxicity, but rather the problem, due to their high quality and durability, how to make end of life processing cost effective.  The dream of returning the tire to the constituent parts still eludes; however others found that taking the tire rubber and reshaping it through shredding and granulation that the positive physical properties of durability and resilience would make it an ideal raw material and extender for new products.