Some community members are calling on the Aromas/San Juan School District to remove the ground-up tire chips that are used as a cushion on elementary school playgrounds and at Mi Escuelita Preschool. The issue is an agenda item for the Wednesday, Oct. 26 school board meeting at 6 p.m. at Anzar High School.
Aromas School first used the mulch in 1999 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved it for use in school playgrounds.
Clinical pharmacist and Aromas resident Brent Capuano is spearheading the effort to remove rubber tire mulch with the replacement of a non-toxic alternative, such as the wood fiber product, Fibar.
Capuano has researched the subject and created the website www.playitsafearomas.com for parents, community members, board members and school officials to become informed on the use of rubber tire mulch.
Capuano says: “According to the EPA study, it has passed regulatory discretion onto the state and local governments. International toxicologists have stated that the (rubber) mulch warrants regulatory concern, while scientists are increasingly concerned with the presence of carbon nanoparticles, including carbon nanotubes, in new tire manufacturing processes. When the nanotubes become airborne, they are absorbable in the skin, where they are believed to behave like asbestos. We know that the mulch produces dust because we see it on our children’s clothes, on their skin, and even in their nostrils when they come home from school. “
Capuano further states in a letter sent to Aromas/San Juan School District School Superintendent, Michele Huntoon and school board members, “we are tired of the smells, the soot that covers our children’s skin and clothes and the lack of long term safety data that no one wants to talk about.”
“We understand the EPA has deemed these tire shreds ‘safe’ based on their very short term research, but we are not convinced. We do not want to debate how toxic these tire chips are. We do not want to debate if the carcinogenic levels are low enough to not cause harm after nine years of playing on them. We know these tires come from the landfill.” Capuano further stated that there is no assurance as to where the tires originate, and there are no regulatory standards for them.
Huntoon, when asked for a comment by BenitoLink, stated that the subject was brought up for a discussion. “I have spoken with Mr. Capuano and we reached an agreement that we would wait until a report came out from the EPA.” Funds that are granted to schools — such as for the addition of the rubber tile mulch — must be used as agreed upon at the time it is awarded, she said.
“(Rubber tire mulch) is common use in thousands of playgrounds up and down the state,” Huntoon said. In the agenda item for Wednesday's board discussion, the district stated: "District staff have researched the possible harmful affects of the tire chips and have found no conclusive evidence. The research includes communication with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Public Playground Safety Handbook and the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)."
Capuano created the GoFundMe page, Play it Safe Aromas and San Juan Unified Schools, with a goal to raise $30,000 for the removal of tire chips and replacement with a what he says is a safer product. As of Monday morning, the page had generated $1,165 in donations.