Twin Cities parents worry rubber playground surfaces toxic for kids

Parents often worry about their kids getting bumps and bruises at the playground, but some claim there's a more dangerous threat lurking on the ground – the rubber mulch made from old tires.

Lead, mercury and arsenic are among the toxic materials commonly found in recycled tires, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, but so far the agency has stopped short of calling tire-fill playgrounds unsafe.

Minneapolis Public Schools says about 40 tire-fill playgrounds have been built district wide. Millions of dollars have been spent on their construction and it would cost millions more to have them replaced, but the pressure is building from concerned parents.

"We know there are toxins in these materials. We know there are carcinogens, we know there are skin and lung irritants and we know are kids are breathing and ingesting them after they play,” Nancy Brown, a concerned parent, said.

Brown and other worried parents voiced their concerns before the Minneapolis School Board on Tuesday

"Last spring I found the fumes emanating from the Lyndale playground caused me to step back several feet while my five-year-old was playing on it and I decided to find out what he is breathing,” Brown said at the school board meeting.

In Washington, lawmakers are asking the EPA to take a second look at rubber safety.

Mark Bollinger with Minneapolis Public Schools says the district does not have their own methods for testing the safety of playground materials. The district relies on the federal government to tell them what materials they can and cannot use.

He told Fox 9 if tire-fill playgrounds are ultimately deemed unsafe, they will have no problem replacing them.

Local parents have already started a petition asking for the playgrounds to be swapped out. More than 1,500 people have already signed it.