What are the Health and Environmental Hazards?

What are the Health and Environmental Hazards?
Scrap tire piles constitute substantial fire and environmental hazards. They trap litter, rainwater heat and microorganisms. Scrap tires are mosquito incubators contributing to serious health consequences from mosquito borne diseases affecting mostly children.

tire_fire1 Tire fires happen all too often in tire dumps.
Tires have a high BTU value; as a result they burn
very hot and intensely, and are extremely difficult
to extinguish. These fires can burn for months or years emitting hazardous pollutants, including dioxins, hydrogen chloride, benzene, heavy metals such as lead and arsenic, to name just a few. Health issues can be short and long term. Oil, ash and tire residues leach into the ground and contaminate soil and groundwater.

Tire Derived Fuel (“TDF”) consumed almost 52% of the scrap tires generated in the United States in 2005. Presently TDF applications are utilized in industrial settings where the technology relies on incinerating the tires to generate steam (through a boiler) or electricity (through a turbine). This simple but environmentally unsound incineration process occurs most often in what euphemistically is known as a “cement kiln” (in the cement industry) or a “lime kiln” (in the lime production industry), or in a tire-to-energy facility. This antiquated process spews enormous quantities of carbon and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Reportedly, polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans are produced during the incineration process. Other toxins such as NOx, SOx and heavy metals are also produced during incineration. In contrast to existing tire-to-energy facilities GreenTire’s process will not involve any incineration or burning of tire rubber. Rather, GreenTire’s state-of-the-art gasification plant will be the most efficient, viable and environmentally sound tire-to-energy facility in the world.

Approximately 16% of the scrap tires generated annually in the United States are reprocessed for use in civil engineering applications (e.g., as a component in roadway resurfacing materials), and approximately 13% of the scrap tires generated annually in the United States are shredded or ground into pellets (a/k/a crumb rubber) and sold for use as playground and horse ring surfacing material and artificial landscaping mulch. The crumb rubber contains a range of hazardous chemicals and heavy metals, including but not limited to lead, zinc, and benzene, many of which are known to bioaccumulate (meaning they buildup in your system).  As wear and tear and extreme heat levels degrade the crumb rubber, it breaks down into fine, dust-like particles. These tiny particles can be ingested by breathing if they are airborne, or by swallowing if they are on ones hands or some object that is put into the mouth. According to the Coastal Marine Resource Center Policy Project 2008 paper “The Effects of Crumb Rubber on Water Quality,” a Canadian government study found that “all rainbow trout exposed to water containing scrap tires for 60 days died within 24 hours.”  As the crumb rubber disintegrates over time (fields are generally replaced every 8-10 years), it can prove even more toxic than when it is first put down.  In a study examining three tires with varying degrees of wear immersed in water, “the water from both the new and used tire…contain[ed] toxic leachate and proved fatal to rainbow trout.  The water from the used tired was more toxic…and remained toxic for 24 days longer….”

Approximately 2% of the scrap tires generated annually in the United States are exported for use outside of the United States where regulatory environments permit the use of tires too worn for use in the United States. This merely shifts the disposal problem to third world countries lacking the resources to dispose of the tires efficiently or in an environmentally acceptable manner.  Eventually the consequent pollution permitted in those countries circles back to adversely impact the United States.