tires

Improperly Stored Tires Lead to Big Mosquito Problems

By Marcia Anderson

Make sure tires on playgrounds have drainage holes to prevent rainwater from accumulating and causing a mosquito breeding problem.

Make sure tires on playgrounds have drainage holes to prevent rainwater from accumulating and causing a mosquito breeding problem.

I have a vivid memory of visiting a childcare center on Staten Island, NY. When I approached a corner of the backyard, a swarm of mosquitoes must have sensed me and dive-bombed onto every exposed part of my body. I was bitten repeatedly from my head down to my shoes. When I peered over the fence into the neighboring yard, I saw thousands of mosquitoes congregating around a pile of discarded tires.

Although many scrap tires are brought to state approved disposal sites, many also wind up in illegal dump sites. Untold more are thrown along roadways or stored in yards. Tire stockpiles present a threat to human health and the environment for several reasons.

Why are improperly stored tires hazardous to your health?

Each tire in a yard, if improperly stored, can become a breeding ground for thousands of mosquitoes which can carry life-threatening diseases such as dengue fever, West Nile virus and various forms of encephalitis.

The design of tires provides an ideal nursery for mosquito larvae. Tires fill with water after a rainstorm and retain the water as some of the inside areas of the tires are shaded continuously, preventing evaporation of the trapped water. Tires are somewhat insulated and retain heat for long periods of time that speeds up mosquito egg hatching and larval growth. They also collect leaf litter and debris that provides nutrition for the larvae.

Despite over 30 years of efforts to address scrap tires, stockpiles continue to be a problem across the U.S. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, over 290 million more tires are scrapped every year, and over 653 million tons of these are land-disposed. Tires in dumps are difficult to clean up due to the sheer numbers and because trees grow through them and trash, leaves, garbage, and water collect in them.

Tires on playgrounds as part of climbing or swinging structures are another potential breeding site. Ensure that the tires, and other children’s outdoor play structures have drainage holes and that the holes are kept unblocked by debris, such as leaves, to maintain water flow.

Mosquito Control: The most effective mosquito control is to keep tires dry. Pesticides applied to tire piles to control larval or adult mosquitoes may not be fully effective. Shredding tires, or otherwise rendering them incapable of holding water, is usually more effective than pesticides. If you must keep tires, store them indoors or stack and cover them with a tarp to prevent them from collecting water. Drill holes in tires in play equipment or other tire sculptures to allow water drainage and prevent future water accumulation. Keep vegetation and grasses around tires short, reducing resting sites for adult mosquitoes.

Tire Recycling:  Over 1.3 million pounds of tires are recycled each year by chopping them into high grade rubber nuggets. Some are reincorporated in the manufacture of new tires while others are converted into a urethane binder to make sidewalks, playground surfaces, and basketball courts. Roads in some areas are resurfaced using tire chips for backfill and insulation, giving asphalt both springiness and longer life. In New Hampshire, Timberland is putting tires back on the road in boots and shoes with soles made of recycled rubber. And as of 2009, 40% of scrap tires are used in energy generation due to their high BTU content.

When Buying New Tires, Recycle Your Old Tires: Businesses that sell or install tires must take back tires of approximately the same size that they sell. The fee for the collection of old tires is included in the cost of new tires.

In New York City, the Department of Sanitation will accept up to four tires from passenger cars at any of its garages or at one of the department’s household special waste drop-off sites. For more information go to New York City Department of Sanitation’s website or dial 3-1-1.  There are similar programs across the country; contact your local Department of Public Works for drop sites.

About the Author: About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Fill Those Tires!

By Lina Younes

At home, we try to do our best to give the proper maintenance to our cars. Not only does it improve vehicle performance, increases fuel efficiency, and saves money, but it protects the environment as well. So, in spite of our efforts to maintain our cars properly, I noticed that our newest vehicle started to “act up”. Some dashboard indicator lights went on when I started the car in the morning. However, later in the day, the lights went off. After a couple of days, I saw a pattern. If the temperature went below 40 degrees, the lights lit up. When I consulted the vehicle manual I realized that the indicator lights were part of the Tire Pressure Monitoring System. The system is designed to alert the driver when tire air pressure is low and tires have to be inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Although the tires looked fine to me from the outside, the system indicated that they needed some air. With cooler temperatures, it was obvious that the tires were not functioning to optimum levels.

Proper tire pressure is important for your own safety. Driving with under-inflated tires can cause them to overheat or even blowout. Furthermore, under-inflated tires will also lower your fuel efficiency and ultimately cost you more money at the pump.

So, visit our website for additional tips on what you can do to improve your vehicle’s performance and reduce pollution. It’s easier than you think. Do you have any suggestions? Please send us your comments. We will love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as EPA’s Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Purchasing Tires for My Old Faithful

By Denise Owens

Normally when I go to purchase tires for my vehicle it’s usually because they are worn. But in this case they were dry rotted. It’s an old little SUV that isn’t driven much.

So I started my search online for the best deals. After finding the best deal I made an appointment to have the tires installed. After arriving at the service center, the serviceman informed me that along with having my tires installed and balanced. I needed more work to my vehicle.

After spending my entire Saturday getting my old faithful truck serviced, I received my bill. I was ok with all the charges until I noticed a fee for tire disposal. So I asked the serviceman where do you dispose the old tires? He said “oh, we put them in the dumpster.” So I told him, I’d take them with me instead. He looked at me as if I was crazy.

I left the service center with all of my old tires. On my way home, I stopped at my area recycling center. At the recycling center, there is an area to dispose of tires. So I removed the tires from my truck and disposed of them in the proper area.

I feel so good knowing that I disposed of my own tires and saved money by disposing of them the correct way.

What do you do when you purchase new tires?

About the author: Denise Owens has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency for over 20 years

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Tire Story

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Rubber protects my bones and ligaments while I jog in my neighborhood park. Yet if not properly recycled, it can be more harm than good. In Puerto Rico 4.7 million scrap tires are disposed of every year and nearly 300 million in the United States. While there is a market for their proper recycling and productive use, such as the ground rubber surface I love to run on, almost one quarter of scrap tires end up in landfills and illegal dumps every year.

While tire regulations vary from state to state, and they are not treated generally a hazardous waste, they are threats to human health and the environment when not properly disposed of. Rodents and mosquitoes, such as aedes aegypti, may live and breed in them if they collect water. Fires, which are hard to extinguish, can release hazardous gases, heavy metals and oils that can contaminate not only the air but also the soil.

Tires can be used in environmentally safe applications such as ground rubber, like the one used in rubber-modified asphalt and playground applications, and rubber mulch. Some 56 million tires are recycled in the US for civil engineering projects and some 16.5 million are re-treaded.

image of tire floating in water taken from the side of a shipIn spite of all these good uses and outreach efforts being performed by local and federal environmental agencies and municipal anti-tire dumping laws, many scrap tires end up in our rivers and beaches harming habitats and ecosystems. Furthermore, during the last OSV Bold trip to Puerto Rico we found some tires floating in the ocean, miles away from the Atlantic coast.

In order to help state and local governments reduce the economic burdens and environmental risks associated with scrap tire piles, EPA Region 5 created the Scrap Tire Cleanup Guidebook. This guidebook provides the experience of dozens of professionals to assist government officials in reducing scrap tire dumping and creating prevention programs.

As an individual citizen there are many things that can be done to prevent tires from ending up in the wrong place and becoming a nuisance. If you have unused tires at home, you may be able to return surplus tires to either a tire retailer or a local recycling facility that accepts them. Also buy durable tires and take proper care of them by checking air inflation, driving in a manner that does not put unnecessary demand on tires, rotating them, balancing the wheels, and maintaining proper wheel alignment. And last but not least, support the recycled product market.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.