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Frustrated homeowner at wits' end trying to clean up dangerous mistake left by previous owners: 'That crap is toxic'

"Installed by the previous owners and I cannot stand it."

"Installed by the previous owners and I cannot stand it.”

Photo Credit: iStock

A Redditor took to r/landscaping for advice about a curious decision by the previous owner of their home.

"How/when to get rid of rubber mulch?" they wrote a few years ago. "Made of shredded tires, installed by the previous owners and I cannot stand it."

 rubber mulch
Photo Credit: u/otterbrain / Reddit

A couple of folks recommended the original poster break out a rake, shovel, and wheelbarrow, and others wrote that a shop vac would be helpful.

Someone else said the problem called for an urgent solution: "Gloves and heavy duty garbage bags. Now. That crap is toxic."

It's understandable the homeowner was frustrated. 

In contrast to organic mulch, rubber mulch doesn't add nutrients to the soil, isn't the best solution to control weeds, and has a negative impact on plants and trees.

The product is also a fire hazard and releases toxins into the environment as it breaks down.

"In high enough concentrations, some of these rubber leachates are known to be harmful to human health; effects of exposure range from skin and eye irritation to major organ damage and even death," wrote Linda Chalker-Scott, extension horticulturist and associate professor at the Washington State University. "Long term exposure can lead to neurological damage, carcinogenesis, and mutagenesis."

The pollutants can be especially toxic in acidic soils and aquatic systems Chalker-Scott reported.

The use of similar materials is ubiquitous as well. Crumb rubber — basically chopped-up rubber mulch — is popular on playgrounds, at parks, and in stadiums, but parents and at least one coach have sounded alarms.

Researchers have "attempted to measure the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals through the inhalation of gasses and particulate matter, as well as skin contact," NBC reported in 2014.

Artificial turf — a similarly hazardous landscaping material — fields with crumb infill get superheated, emitting volatile organic compounds and chemicals into the air.

It's all the more reason to gather rubber mulch and dispose of it as soon as possible.

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