Durham parents concerned rubber mulch may harm their children

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Community members in the City of Durham are worried rubber mulch in some city parks could harm their children.

Kristin Henry used to take their two kids to East Durham Park all the time.

The swings were Henry’s 5-year-old and 2-year-old’s favorites.

Henry says in April, the city placed a layer of rubber tire mulch on their favorite city park.

They don’ go to East Durham Park anymore.

Henry: “It smelled like a place where you go and get your tires changed. So I wondered what is this stuff is. And if it smells bad, is it bad, is dangerous?

CBS North Carolina: “So what did you find out?”

Henry: I found out a lot of really scary things”

Henry’s concerns spread through the community and even reached the Durham City Council.

In an email obtained by CBS North Carolina, Durham City Council member Charlie Reece requested information from city officials after he saw a Facebook post referencing “the use of carcinogenic tire mulch at a city park in East Durham”.

DeDreana Freeman says it was her Facebook post.

“How do we address these environmental hazards as they arise, rather than waiting until some child is sick,” said Freeman.

Both Freeman and Henry say they are looking for answers, but have not heard much.

So CBS North Carolina took their concerns to the city.

In a document obtained from the City of Durham, it says the rubber mulch meets safety standards from ASTM International, and the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association.

However, the document also states the city is tracking the issue of rubber mulch which they say has potential major health considerations.

CBS North Carolina also stopped by at Durham Parks and Recreation to see what if anything is being done with the rubber mulch.

City officials say safety is their No. 1 concern for Durham families.

They say they are waiting for test results from the EPA, CDC, and the UC Consumer Product Safety Commission on the possible long term effects of rubber mulch.

The EPA’s website says, “Limited studies have not shown an elevated health risk from playing on fields with tire crumb, but the existing studies do not comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks from exposure to tire crumb”.

City documents say it would cost around $30,000 to replace the rubber surfacing used in Durham Parks.

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