The new children’s playground at Plassey Square is surfaced with a multi-coloured crumb rubber partly derived from recycled car-tyres.

The new children’s playground installed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council at Plassey Square was being completed thsi week  and should be available to local children – under 12 years of age –  in the next few days.

The blue, green and sand-coloured top-surface of the new playground is composed of “crumbs”  of virgin rubber [i.e. rubber that hasn’t been recycled] but that is bonded to lower layer of black rubber chips which are derived from recycled car tyres.

The black underside of the 25mm thick layer of playground surface is made of “crumbs” of recycled car tyres. Workers wear protective gloves to handle this material.

A European Union report published last month concluded that there is “at most, a very low level of concern from exposure to recycled rubber granules” in artificial sports fields, – allaying fears about risks posed by chemicals present in the rubber. More than 30% of used tyres in the EU are now being recyclsed for use in sports fields and playgrounds.

However, in the USA where 8% of the nation’s scrap tyres are now being processed for  playground surfaces, the use of rubber from recycled car-tyres in areas where young children play is controversial .

The American National Centre for Health Research says “There has been increasing evidence that raises concerns about the safety of recycled tire material used on playground surfaces. While tire rubber includes natural rubber from rubber trees, it also contains phthalates (chemicals that affect hormones), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals known or suspected to cause adverse health effects.”

The rubber surface is designed to protect children from injuries should they fall

The United States Environmental Protection Agency says breathing air contaminated with PAHs may increase a person’s chance of developing cancer, and the US  Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) states that PAHs “may increase the risk for cancer and also increase the chances of birth defects.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) tests showed that a single incident of eating or touching tire shreds would probably not harm a child’s health, but repeated or long-term exposure might. Five chemicals, including four PAHs, were found on wipe samples. One of the PAHs, “chrysene,” was higher than the risk level established by the OEHHA, and therefore, could possibly increase the chances of a child developing cancer.

American National Centre for Health Research advises parents to “actively persuade local officials that playgrounds should use wood chips rather than recycled rubber or other substances that are less safe when children fall, and more dangerous in terms of chemicals that they breathe or get on their hands.”

The other American agencies – the CDC, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and EPA all recommend that children are taught the importance of frequent hand-washing, especially after playing outside and before eating. The EPA has said the latest studies “do not comprehensively address new questions and concerns about children’s health risks from exposure to crumb rubber”.

An artist’s impression of the completed layout for the children’s play area on  Plassey Square

According to the Daily Telegraph  “In Holland  parents of boys at the Ajax academy De Toekomst in Amsterdam received letters last week to reassure them that from now on, not only would their children not be playing on any of the club’s 3G pitches with rubber crumb infill, but those pitches were being removed.”

A report by the European Chemicals Agency says however it “has found no reason to advise people against playing sports on synthetic turf containing recycled rubber granules.”. Whilst there are hazardous substances in the granules, they are in low concentrations, the report says.

The new rubber crumb surface at Cliff Walk children’s playground has not yet been laid but the Vale Council has promised the installation will be completed by the Easter Holidays

The children’s playground at Cliff Walk, has been cleared of its equipment and the  ground prepared for the installation of similar rubber-crumb surfacing, but work at this site has yet to start.

The Vale of Glamorgan Council is spending £200,000 to upgrade play facilities ahead of the May council elections and carried out a “consultation” with local residents about the proposed “upgrades” but it’s not known whether this included discussion of the material chosen for the surfaces of the play areas.

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  1. Plainjane says:

    Plassey square are on thier second park development in 10 years yet still no sign of Paget Terrace improvements. Obviously being punished for disagreeing with the powers that be. Whatever it’s very unfair

    • Tom says:

      I’d imagine there’s some truth in what you say.
      Or, Councillor King’s son – considered the Vale’s authority on skateboarding issues – is still weighing up whether he wants a skateboard park there?
      Or perhaps they’re trying to think of something which will make everyone think ‘I wish we’d rolled over for the skateboard park now’ ?
      My own view is that your suggestion is very much in their vein of thinking. Awful isn’t it?

    • Lady S says:

      Plassey Square park hasn’t been updated since I’ve lived here since 1997 ? What do mean 2nd in 10 years ?

  2. Kevin Mahoney says:

    I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on this matter but I did ask in council just a few months ago about the increasing international concerns about the rubber crumb made from recycled tyres given the increase in the number of artificial grass football pitches being installed in vale leisure facilities

    Holland is ripping up hundreds of artificial grass football pitches over concerns of a possible link between the rubber crumb sprinkled on them and health fears.

    Cabinet member Gwyn John in a prepared answer to my question assured us that there were no confirmed health links and that any fears were only supposition. I asked that the Vale keep fully updated on worldwide reports and research into this matter.

    • Rosie says:

      Thanks for your concern and efforts, Cllr Mahoney. I wish they had listened to you instead of bulldozing ahead with this. It reminds me very much about concerns over tanning and hair dyes and things like that – dismissed for so long, and ages before it is accepted there is a risk to health. I can’t believe such a thing ever became acceptable, not least in an area where little ones play.

  3. Mark Foster says:

    Just in time for Vaughan Gething’s kids 100 yards away and they can also get the new bus to Llandough Hospital and walk to the new Health Centre at the Leisure Centre while old folks in Penarth Town Centre flats will die.

    These people are scum.

  4. Jess says:

    I’m glad you’ve published the (growing) concerns about using rubber tyres on surfaces with which young children come into such close contact (though I don’t need any more information to keep mine away.)
    Anyone concerned can read up further on developments in the States (where in other serious health issues, too,they appear far more diligent than the European Union). Children face enough phthalates and the rest of it in daily life through school surfaces and treatments to sofas and carpets in the home. In a playground, their bare skin is likely to come into repeated contact with this surface. Whatever happened to good old grass, eh?

    • Becky Hallinan says:

      This stuff is horrendous. Its cancer-causing properties are well-documented. I can’t understand how it’s been allowed on a children’s play surface?

  5. Rosie says:

    What a horrible eyesore. That bright blue looks so chemical and unnatural, even without knowing what’s it’s made of!

  6. Eunice says:

    Ych y fi, call me an old-fashioned grass girl but that surface looks toxic to me.

  7. 92 and a social butterfly says:

    Oh dear,

  8. I remember playing in parks where the kids amusements area was covered in tarmac , and as children did and still do some fell down and got the odd cut or bruise , and we then tried to avoid doing IT again , it is called live and learn and letting children learn by their mistakes . Nowadays some parents are so overwhelmingly protective of their children that its a wonder , their food is not tested at every meal to test if its safe to eat by the parent. And i’m sure some business is missing out on producing protective clothing suits for children from 2 upwards to wear before using swings , slides etc etc in a playground . Imagine watching children wearing different coloured (space man like) running around and playing in such garments , what a sight it would be !. Other than that put knee and elbow and head protection on each child , or as a last resort cotton wool.

    • Windsor in my view says:

      Cling film works just as well. You just need to make sure you push some breathing holes in it…..oh, and Ines where they can use the toilet through as that just gets messy!!!

  9. Dr R T Wilkins says:

    What a waste of money, another area for the little ASBO’S to congregate.

  10. Rhian says:

    I’m absolutely staggered that the council used this surface, not least when it appears Councillor Kevin Mahoney warned them of concerns about its potential carcinogenic properties. Why didn’t they google ‘rubber play surface cancer’ before shelling out all this money? Who made the decision to use this surface for young children???

  11. Rhian says:

    A quick look at the internet will show articles saying ‘rubber crumb’ is the new asbestos, capable of causing respiratory problems and cancer. Just some excerpts below – can’t believe they used this. NO WAY AM I TAKING MY TWO THERE – look it up, the US is way ahead on this (as they were on the health threat of asbestos.)

    “Crumb rubber contains benzothiazole, which exerts acute toxicity and is a respiratory irritant and a dermal sensitiser. Carbon black, which makes up 20-40% of crumb rubber, has been identified as a cancer-causing chemical by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Another concern is allergic reactions to the latex in crumb rubber.”
    “Children are particularly vulnerable to toxic threats. Children have increased exposure to toxic chemicals due to the unique way they interact with their environment. Because they are growing and developing, their bodies are also more susceptible than adults to chemical exposures.”
    “The CEH now recommends that schools, when feasible, replace rubber crumb infill with infill made from natural materials. Their recommendation is similar to those in New York City, which currently uses alternatives to rubber crumb infill in its new turf installations, and the Los Angeles Unified School District, which removed rubber crumb from play areas for young children.”
    A report from the Environmental Protection Agency said “current information from a number of tyre crumb studies does not show an elevated health risk from playing on fields with synthetic turf or tyre crumbs. However, these studies do not comprehensively address new questions and concerns about children’s health risks from exposure to crumb rubber”.
    In 2014, Amy Griffin, head soccer coach for the University of Washington, began to question whether it was the chemicals in the rubber crumb in synthetic turf that were making goalies that she had coached, as well as goalies internationally, develop cancer.
    “Goalkeepers are in constant contact with the turf and the rubber crumb gets into their cuts and scrapes, as well as their mouths. “I’ve coached for twenty-seven years,” states Ms Griffin. “My first fifteen years, I never heard anything about cancer. All of a sudden it seems to be in a stream of kids.” She has since compiled a list of thirty-eight American soccer players – thirty-four of whom are goalies – who have been diagnosed with cancer. Blood cancers, such as lymphoma and leukemia, dominate the list.
    Research suggests it may be more toxic in hot weather and with sustained exposure, getting into cuts etc. How did this go ahead???

  12. James says:

    I see the workmen are using gloves to lay this stuff…just been looking online.
    Can’t believe it’s still in use. Is there any way it can be stopped on the clifftops? No parent I know will let their child on it. This stuff sounds lethal.

  13. Sue Davies says:

    HOW WAS THIS STUFF ALLOWED ON A CHILDREN’S PLAY AREA??? Just been warned to google rubber infill. Spread the word to other parents.

  14. Lex79 says:

    A horrendous, harmful eyesore – congratulations VOG!

  15. It should be taken up immediately if its a risk to health , this Council should be top of the list for blunders and stupid ideas .

  16. Neil says:

    Absolute rubbish. Total misconceptions being banded around in this article. The European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers Association jumped on this issue last year and released a Literature review:
    A large number of papers and scientific reports have been published worldwide by public and private institutes trying to assess the risk related to the use of recycled rubber in artificial turf and playgrounds. All these studies converged in concluding that there are no significant or scientifically justified health risks due to the PAHs impurities.
    DIRECT CONTACT – A testing program to determine the PAHs content in different types of tyres was conducted in Italy between October 2014 and January 2015. Migration of PAHs in artificial sweat and pulmonary surfactant are being finalised by Istituto Mario Negri, a not-for-profit biomedical research organization, through a procedure representative of a prolonged contact (EN1810. 1 h at 37°C). The laboratories decided to repeat the test for 24 h. After 1 day, the concentration of PAH in artificial sweat was still not detectable, confirming that the level of exposure to PAHs is minimal. The results are independent from the age and country of origin of tyres.

    People should be grateful that they are having a proactive council, upgrading well needed play facilities for Children.

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