DCR defends use of tire mulch at playgrounds

David Taber

SOUTHWEST CORRIDOR—State Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) officials met with parents and others who say they are concerned about what may be harmful levels of toxins in recycled tires being used as ground cover at the playground near New Minton Street and at other Southwest Corridor Parks playgrounds on June 16.

All tires contain trace elements of toxic chemicals, but, DCR staffer Rob Lowell told the about half-dozen community members at the meeting at the park, DCR believes the levels are low enough not to be dangerous, based on tests by the manufacturer. He said DCR would run its own tests.

That did little to mollify some parents’ concerns. Abigail Hykin said she is concerned about the effects of long-term exposure to a combined chemical “cocktail.” Some said they experience respiratory problems when they visit the playground. Others complained about the smell and the lightweight material’s tendency to spread throughout the park.

DCR official Matt Thurlow said the tire mulch is the most impact-absorbent material on the market. Since the meeting, JP mom Audrey White has started a Facebook group called “Ban Rubber Mulch on Playgrounds.” Some other playgrounds on the corridor have solid “poured in place” rubber ground cover and some use the tire mulch.
Some parents claimed that the City of Boston does not plan to use tire mulch when the renovate JP’s Brewer-Burroughs playground this year because of safety concerns. Contacted by the Gazette, city officials said the city does not use rubber mulch for its playgrounds because of the maintenance costs of cleaning up mulch that spreads into the areas around playgrounds where it is used.

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