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Parent warned against using playground product with serious health implications for children: 'It's bad stuff'

"[It] is literally garbage."

"[It] is literally garbage."

Photo Credit: iStock

A Redditor who asked whether their kids could safely play in rubber mulch was met with a chorus of "No" in the r/landscaping community.

"We have a section of our backyard that's covered in it and our young kids (6 and 2) play in it," they said. "Should we be concerned about the exposure from playing around the stuff, they're always digging through it looking for rollie pollies, worms, etc."

"I've seen sharp pieces of the tire's steel belts in rubber mulch," one commenter said. "Not good for kids."

Another agreed: "Yeah, it's bad stuff. Playground-safe shredded wood mulch is far better for your needs."

The problem with rubber mulch, as these two stated, is that it comes from shredded tires. So, steel wires, which provide reinforcement for vehicle treads, may be a part of the mix.

Studies have also shown that chemicals in crumb rubber, which is used in artificial turf and as a surface for playgrounds, are carcinogenic.

The ubiquity of recycled rubber belies its harm. Used tires are basically impossible to get rid of, so manufacturers and distributors are keen to find any use for them, per a Washington State University report on the subject.

But rubber mulch is a worse weed preventer than natural options, and it ignites easily — meaning it's a big no-no in areas prone to wildfires.

And while it may be marketed as non-toxic, it leaches pollutants, including heavy metals, that can kill marine wildlife. Other documented problems in aquatic organisms include reproductive issues, and the leachates are especially dangerous in acidic soil, wherein they become "more available to plant and animal uptake."

It even emits gases. And when it gets hot, volatile organic compounds are more likely to be present and inhaled.

In a yard, native plants or grass alternatives such as clover are better options. In a bed or garden, natural mulches of leaves or other organic matter work wonders.

"Rubber mulch is literally garbage," one Redditor wrote. "I've never seen a playground with it, our cities all use real 'clear' playground chip aka clean cedar wood. As long as they don't eat it it'll probably be okay but it gets very hot."

"Just use a natural mulch," someone else suggested. "Cheaper and better for the soil when your kids grow out of the playset."

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