Every year, emergency rooms all over the USA treat at least 200,000 playground-related injuries. For decades, gravel and wood chips have become the standard for playground surfaces even if they inadvertently contribute to this alarming statistic. Lately, though, rubber mulch has been making waves as a better alternative.
A softer alternative
Kids will be kids, and scrapes, falls, and accidents will happen especially when they are playing outdoors. Whether at home or elsewhere, ultimately, your child’s safety is what counts. What rubber mulch can do is to provide extra springiness for when kids fall or stumble while at play. With proper installation and adequate depth (around six inches), a rubber mulch surface will give up to 16 feet of critical fall height protection compared to gravel or wood mulch. It can cushion many mishaps and help your child avoid fractures, brain trauma, and other playground-related injuries.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has actually endorsed the use of rubber mulch for playground surfaces. The agency has also done surface and atmospheric tests on playgrounds using rubber mulch, and found no significant adverse human or environmental effects.
And due to the process of recycling and repurposing rubber mulch undergoes, some states like Kentucky have incentivized its use. Even the playground at the White House uses rubber mulch.
Because they are made of recycled tires, children with sensitivity to latex and rubber may be at risk when exposed to rubber mulch. However, the California health hazard branch of the EPA also tested rubber mulch for skin sensitization and discovered that it does not elicit skin reaction among kids, even with those who have a predisposed sensitivity towards latex.