Not too long ago, mountains of old tires were to be found in virtually every town and city’s landfill, and toxic tire fires that would sometimes take months to subside were a common occurrence. Today, these tire piles are a rarity, and thankfully, so are the fires that used to go with them.
We have largely to thank the combined initiatives of scientists, entrepreneurs, and legislators from banishing unsightly these unsightly tire piles from the landscape. Today you’re more likely to see old tires in your yoga mat or the asphalt you drive on than in ugly piles that you can see from the distance.
However, there have been questions about the widespread use of tire chips, especially in playgrounds, as mulch, and as repurposed water containers for agriculture and livestock.
These concerns are quite understandable, as we are in direct contact with tire chips when they are used in the first two applications. When used for agriculture and livestock, there seems to be a distinct and logical risk that any toxins that are released in those applications may eventually end up in our bodies.
Recycled tire products are safe for consumers
Provided that you are not the one processing the tires yourself (more on that later), there is an extremely low toxicity risk in tire chips. A typical tire chip is made from old tires, which means that they have already off-gassed much of their volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). New tires emit a good amount of VOC’s, which you can readily detect because of the unique new tire smell.
Many of these compounds have been linked to cancer. However, decades of research and uncontrolled use of old tires in different applications through the 20th century seem to strongly indicate that unless you are actually involved in producing or processing tires, your risks are quite low due to the low dosage of chemicals a typical consumer can expect. It’s the doses that makes a chemical toxic, and in the case of old tires where most tire chips are derived, the risk is negligible.
However, working in an environment where you can actually smell the “new tire scent” constantly can be a significant risk. By analogy, a bartender will be fine if they have a drink with one customer. But if they drink with every single customer that comes by every night, they’re in serious trouble.
Recycling large volumes of tires can be problematic
Unless you constantly work with tires, the risk is quite minimal. You can and should feel free to recycle or repurpose any tires you have around your house or yard into furniture, tire swings, planters, or pet beds. However, if you’re thinking of recycling dozens of tires a week, you should reconsider, as the particulate dust from carving up or shredding old tires can also be a risk over time if you don’t have the right equipment or safety gear.
Improper tire recycling can also heighten your exposure to dangerous chemicals in the tires, especially when they are subjected to the heat of a grinder or shredder that is not specifically meant for tire recycling. This can expose you to high levels of carcinogenic VOCs without you realizing it.
If you need to safely dispose of a high volume of tires, or tires that are difficult to recycle, such as those on tractors and OTR vehicles, be sure to contact a professional recycler like Western Tire Recyclers.