Pochron S, Nikakis J, Illuzzi K, Baatz A, Demirciyan L, Dhillon A, Gaylor T, Manganaro A, Maritato N, Moawad M, Singh R, Tucker C, Vaughan D. (2018). Exposure to aged crumb rubber reduces survival time during a stress test in earthworms (Eisenia fetida). Environ Sci Pollut Res (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-1433-4
This peer-reviewed paper features 12 SBU undergraduates on the author line. The students are from the following departments:
Solid waste management struggles with the sustainable disposal of used tires. One solution involves shredding used tires into crumb rubber and using the material as infill for artificial turf. However, crumb rubber contains hydrocarbons, organic compounds, and heavy metals, and it travels into the environment. Earthworms living in soil contaminated with virgin crumb rubber gained 14% less body weight than did earthworms living in uncontaminated soil, but the impact of aged crumb rubber on the earthworms is unknown. Since many athletic fields contain aged crumb rubber, we compared the body weight, survivorship, and longevity in heat and light stress for earthworms living in clean topsoil to those living in topsoil contaminated with aged crumb rubber. We also characterized levels of metals, nutrients, and micronutrients of both soil treatments and compared those to published values for soil contaminated with virgin crumb rubber. Consistent with earlier research, we found that contaminated soil did not inhibit microbial respiration rates. Aged crumb rubber, like new crumb rubber, had high levels of zinc. However, while exposure to aged crumb rubber did not reduce earthworm body weight as did exposure to new crumb rubber, exposure to aged crumb rubber reduced earthworm survival time during a stress test by a statistically significant 38 min (16.2%) relative to the survival time for worms that had lived in clean soil. Aged crumb rubber and new crumb rubber appear to pose similar toxic risks to earthworms. This study suggests an environmental cost associated with the current tire-recycling solution.