Is Rubber Mulch Safe For Children

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This article explains the benefits and risks or dangers of using rubber mulch in landscapes and gardens.
by Maple Tree · All Zones · Product Reviews · 5 Comments · March 28, 2013 · 9,193 views

Doesn’t burn plants and is safe for children

One study found that the surface temperature of rubber tire mulch can exceed that of a black asphalt parking lot even reaching as high as 172 0F on one day (the last time I checked water boiled at 212 0F). At the very least I think this would be extremely uncomfortable producing scalding and other burns if a child fell onto the hot rubber mulch. The reflected heat from rubber mulch would also increase the chance of heatstroke similar to an asphalt parking lot and not a safe or fun place to play. One rubber mulch web site even stated that rubber mulch from tire was not flammable. I have seen many auto fires in my life and the tires do burn. Land clearers used to use old tires at the bottom of the brush piles since they would burn extremely hot for a very long time to help get rid of green wet brush that was difficult to burn. Research at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute discovered rubber mulches to be a considerable fire hazard. Some mulch like cocoa hulls were difficult to light while other material like ground rubber had flames within a minute and were very difficult to extinguish. They found that organic mulch fires were not common. They were hard to start, and if they did start, they spread slowly. Composted native mulches and compost have very low carbon to nitrogen ratios. For a fire to burn hot and spread, it must have a very high carbon ratio (i.e. raw wood, lumber, rubber, etc.) since carbon combining with oxygen is the energy source.
Rubber tire chips have also been used around the country as back fill in highway construction projects. There have been repeated cases of spontaneous combustion reported even in cool climates like Oregon and Washington State (Biocycle Magazine). I wonder what would happen if a flaming bottle rocket landed on some rubber mulch or a spark from the bar-b-que pit or fireplace. I also suspect some insurance companies may not take kindly to the use of flammable materials around the house. For example many companies will not write homeowner insurance policies or require much higher premiums, if flammable materials like wood shingles are used since it is a fire hazard.

Cost effective

From the information above, there is not a chance of being anywhere near “cost effective.” The only cost effectiveness I can think of is for the seller of rubber mulches. Tire chips have been successfully used for fuel to power electric generators and as an ingredient to make asphalt for road construction. Why sell tire chips to these markets at $10 per cubic yard or less if you can get someone to buy it at $400 per cubic yard as mulch. I recently saw an advertisement for a chipped rubber mulch that was glued into sheets ½” thick and six inches wide. It was designed to be a landscape edging between the flowerbed and grass areas that could be driven on by a lawnmower tire. It might also be a surface that one could kneel on to pull weeds from the flowerbed. In some climates and areas without runner grasses it might have some benefit.

Overall, my opinion is that rubber mulch should be avoided.

http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/FS163E/FS163E.pdf

Resource: Rubber Mulch-Beware by John Ferguson

This article and resourses can be found at http://www.natureswayresources.com/DocsPdfs/RubberMulch.pdf

Noted below are a few other links to articles and references that substantiate the harmfullness of rubber mulches to plant life.

http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~linda%20chalker-scott/horticultural%20myths_files/Myths/Rubber%20mulch.pdf

http://www.paghat.com/rubbermulch.html


Jocko Johnson

Jocko Johnson · Gardenality Seed · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
That article is from 2005, if not older. Since you pretty much copied and pasted from it, did you look to see if there were any advancements in rubber mulch? I am not for or against its use. I was doing online searches for pros and cons of rubber mulch. I did a broad search (no date ranges) and noticed the natureswayresources.com article. Then I set the date range to within the past year. Your article came up and it said the same thing. Thanks for being useless.

6 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Jocko-As stated this article was based on Mr. John Ferguson's (Nature's Way Resources) article. Because of this it should be posted somewhat as is. After speaking to a horticulturalist on their staff and receiving Mr. Ferguson's authorization to post his article it was evident to me the research is still credible with them. I couldn't find any other that has changed my own mind regarding the rubber mulches. Quality nurseries in my area do not carry the rubber mulch products and because of this I felt more research on my part should be done before using it myself. There are other articles in Gardenality that explain the benefits of these products that I hope all will read also. This article was posted, as was said, in hopes of stirring concern and research on individuals part to determine what products they feel is best for their landscapes and gardens. Thank you for reading the article and researching these rubber products on your own. The article has evidently been successful in bringing forth your concerns and because of this I don't feel it was useless. Hopefully your research will help in adding to the pros and cons of these products. Possibly an article that will help all of us determine this products useful place as recycling is a concern of all of us.

6 years ago ·
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Jocko Johnson

Jocko Johnson · Gardenality Seed · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
Thanks for taking the time to respond. Perhaps I was too harsh at first to say it was useless. However, I have looked up a few different pieces of info that I could find probably biased sources - but found that advancements were made to at least the toxicity or lack thereof in some brands. I still am trying to determine what is best. I am leaning towards recycled still but want to make sure it is the right decision for me.

6 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Unfortunately there still has been very little research regarding the effects of rubberized mulch on plant life. Most research has been done on rubberized mulch used in athletic and recreational applications, including ground cover under playground equipment, running track material and as a soil additive on sports and playing fields. Besides the rubberized mulch used in our gardening and its effect on our plantlife its useage in the human invironment is also very important. Below are a few other resources found that some may be interested in reading.

http://center4research.org/child-teen-health/early-childhood-development/caution-children-at-play-on-potentially-toxic-surfaces/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_mulch

http://www.finegardening.com/its-red-its-rubber-it-safe-your-garden

http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB121362884056577645

4 years ago ·
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