The BF Goodrich plant has been how my seed collecting friend has viewed the sunset for most of her life. It sat beneath each setting sun when it was operating, when it went dormant, when it was raped by the "recycler" and now as it begins to disappear. There is less of it now since the EPA's fully hazmat suited team began hauling off the asbestos loaded rubble just days after school was out for the summer. If I could have my druthers, out my window I would prefer plants, purple asters and blazing stars, not the plant she has faced all these decades.
There may be less to see, but the carbon black residue and the fear of what lies beneath will remain for her and her down the street neighbors.
She became the first person in all these years of writing columns to request a topic, so I immediately agreed. Why wouldn't I write about tires for her? Not what treads to get for the upcoming winter driving, but why not to practice one of my tried and true beliefs: recycling and re-using.
I had known for awhile if you need a carcinogen to make tires, why wouldn't that substance be part of what begins to be emitted where the tire comes to reside after its life-cycle of use on the highways ends? We know as the tire is used it leaves tiny bits of it as dust along our roadways and bigger pieces you would have had to dodge behind a big rig. Knowing what tires are made from, surely industry has had a hand in making sure they have not been labeled hazardous waste, with EPA classifying tires as simply as municipal waste, leaving the burden of getting rid of tires up to the consumers and the cities they live in or near.
When LEAD Agency decided to start a Community Garden, we wanted to create one using our style of reusing and re-purposing materials, growing and saving our seeds for next season. 5 years ago we wanted to discourage the use of tires in the garden, especially when growing... what else? edible vegetables. Why? we didn't want to chance the chemicals in the tire getting into the soil and later into the very vegetables we were encouraging people to consume promoting healthy lifestyle.
We planned to use the garden as a classroom and to use one old tire with multiple layers of paint, sealing the tire, and use bright red swath across it indicating NO, DO NOT USE TIRES IN THE GARDEN. We later decided passersby might not understand our subtle message, they might just see was LEAD Agency USING a tire in the garden. So the tire stayed in the storage shed, and waited until the next tribal tire collection day.
There is even more known now about the use of tires in vegetable gardens and generally, the environmental and health risk is still there.
Another growing concern over reusing tire material on synthetic turf fields beginning in the 1990's deemed safe by their producers. There are 12,000-13,000 synthetic turf fields in the U.S., with an estimated 1,200–1,500 new installations each year, tire crumb rubber is the infill material.
Was anyone concerned? Enough concern the Children’s Environmental Health Center of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai urges a moratorium on the use of artificial turf generated from recycled rubber tires. Grinding them into very small crumb pellets that are used on athletic fields, or as mulch, put on playgrounds furthers risk of exposure by what they called increasing the surface area and the likelihood of accidental ingestion. EPA put out information this summer on this issue and using lots of numbers and grafts showed yes they were finding metals, Semi-Volatile Organic Chemicals SVOCs, Volatile Organic Chemicals in artificial turf fields with the SVOCs from indoor fields 1.5 to 10 times higher than outdoor fields!
That residue my friend worries about carbon black, a material made from petroleum which she believes arrived from the plant by wind to her property and into her home. Also found in the crumb rubber in turf it can become small enough to be suspended in air above the field and be inhaled.
To sum this up modern tires are made of natural and synthetic rubber, carbon black, metals, including cadmium, lead (which is neurotoxic) zinc, and chemicals known to be carcinogens. My latest concern came from reading all of these ingredients can be absorbed on the carbon black in the tires, and not what neither my friend or I wanted to learn.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim