Which is Safer? Rubber or Wood Mulch?

From city parks to playgrounds, recycled rubber tire has been an attractive alternative to wood mulch for decades. It helps keep kids safe and helps protect against falls.

However, several people have concerns about whether or not there are health risks from exposure to rubber mulch made from recycled tires. This concern is understandable! After all, we want the best for our children, and we expect the products that are supposed to help keep them safe to be non-toxic and clean.

We’ve written about the safety of recycled rubber before, but there are still questions that need answers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are scheduled to release a report called the “Federal Research Action Plan on Recycled Tire Crumb Used on Playing Fields and Playgrounds.” It should settle the science once and for all.

Until the final peer-reviewed report comes out, we have several previous studies to fall back on. We’ve linked to a few of these at the bottom of this article. These tests (conducted by state and federal agencies and independent, third-party industry associations) show that recycled rubber poses no harm to humans, animals, or the natural environment.

The Problems with Wood Mulch

Although the research shows no significant health risks are associated with artificial mulch made from recycled rubber infill, schools and parks administrators continue to choose wood mulch over rubber even though wood mulch comes with its own problems.

Wood mulch or wood chips can help protect against falls; however, there are some downsides. Splinters, mold, and susceptibility to freezing are all factors that can hinder the performance of wood mulch. Also, some wood mulch has been treated with chemicals like toxic chromated copper arsenate (also called CCA) to make it more resistant to pests and decay.

As for cost, wood mulch is certainly cheaper than rubber mulch — at least in the beginning. Over time, however, the cost grows because it needs to be replaced as the wood decomposes and gets spread around. The groundskeeper is surely going to stay busy raking that mulch back to the areas where it provides protection!

Rubber Mulch

Scrap rubber manufacturers recycle around 110 million tires every year. Some of it gets a new life when it is used to make playground safety surfacing and crumb rubber mulch. The manufacturing process includes grinding and screening to remove stones, metal, fiber, and other materials from scrap tire rubber. The tires undergo an extensive sieve process to remove fibers, and powerful magnets and vacuums remove any remaining metal. This is an exacting process designed to meet rigorous ASTM  specifications. The recycled rubber mulch is continuously tested to maintain a high level of quality and trust.

No Fault Rubber Mulch, for example, does not create dust, decompose, rot, absorb water, displace, or attract insects. A similar product, No Fault Bonded Rubber Mulch, consists of 100% recycled shredded rubber mulch combined with a single component polyurethane binder. We offer specific depths to meet particular fall height requirements. It requires little maintenance and can be installed coast-to-coast.


What about toxins and carcinogenic chemicals? The California Integrated Waste Management Board has performed extensive testing, which revealed that all chemicals in recycled rubber that could be considered carcinogens occur at concentration levels far below the level of one part per million (generally considered an “acceptable” level).

Those tests were about skin exposure. What about ingestion? You can count on small kids to put everything they find into their mouths, right?

Additional studies, linked below, looked at the health effects of ingesting tire shreds and determined that it was unlikely to produce any adverse health effects in a 3-year-old child.

In Conclusion

While wood mulch continues to be a popular option for playground safety, rubber mulch made from recycled rubber has been proven to be a non-toxic alternative that may provide better fall protection and long-term value. At No Fault Surfaces, we take great pride in providing rubber products that enhance playground and park safety – products made from the clean and highest-quality non-toxic materials. Whatever safety surfacing you choose, we want to you to feel 100 percent confident that you’ve made the right decision. We can help!

No Fault offers some of the most popular recreational surfacing products on the market, and we stand behind them 100 percent! Here are a few of the flagship products we offer:

Contact us to find out more about our rubber safety surfacing products.

Studies referred to in this article include the following:

California Integrated Waste Management Board

Evaluation of Health Effects of Recycled Waste Tires in Playground and Track Products

Kansas Department of Health & Environment, Bureau of Waste Management

Health and Safety Considerations Associated with the Use of Recycled Waste Tires for Playground Surfacing

Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Crumb Infill and Turf Characterization for Trace Elements and Organic Materials

National Exposure Research Laboratory Office of Research and Development U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A Scoping-Level Field Monitoring Study of Synthetic Turf Fields and Playgrounds

Pennsylvania State University

Evaluation of Playing Surface Characteristics of Various In-Filled Systems

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Preliminary Assessment of the Toxicity from Exposure to Crumb Rubber

Air & Waste Management Association

Toxicological Evaluation for the Hazard Assessment of Tire Crumb for Use in Public Playgrounds

National Center for Environmental Assessment

Child-Specific Exposure Factors Handbook

Does Your Playground Pass or Fail? See Your Safety Report Card!

We love the work we do at No Fault Surfaces. What’s not to love about making playgrounds more safe and fun! We’re proud that our safety surfacing products (poured-In-place rubber surface, rubber safety tiles, bonded rubber mulch, loose-fill rubber mulch, and synthetic turf) make the world a safer, more attractive place.

But, we also take our job very seriously. More than 200,000 children are injured on America’s playgrounds every single year. So our mission—to promote safety on playgrounds and other play areas—is one we do not take lightly!

Here’s something we discovered that promotes our mission of safety. The National Program for Playground Safety has published a “Safety Report Card” that can help you measure the safety of your play area, whether it’s in a local park, a school playground, child care center, or in your own backyard. Although more extensive inspections should be done by a Certified Playground Inspector, this document can be a great start to making sure your playground has all the safety elements it needs.

Stay Safe with S.A.F.E

The “Safety Report Card” names four contributing factors to properly maintain a safe playground atmosphere. They’re called “S.A.F.E. Factors,” and they are as follows:

  • (S) Supervise children during play
  • (A) Age-appropriate playgrounds are key
  • (F) Fall surfacing under and around play equipment is essential
  • (E) Equipment must be properly maintained

Let’s look at each one individually.


Parents, teachers, and other adults have to take an active role in playground supervision. They must be able to anticipate preventable problems and hazardous situations. This means being alert and attentive. Ask yourself the following: Are adults always present when children are on the equipment? Can the kids be seen while they’re playing (even if they’re in crawl spaces)? Are there rules posted regarding expected behavior?

Make sure you are designing your play areas so supervisors can see all kids at all times. Work within your organization to develop a supervision plan, and you’ll minimize the risk of injury. 

Age-Appropriate Design


Even if your playground is small, it’s best to divide areas based on the age groups that will be using it. For example, separate areas for ages 6 months through 23 months, 2-5 and 5-12 are good targets.

The “2-5” area would allow toddlers to easily manipulate items, explore and learn to interact. It should not include potentially harmful equipment like chain walks, fulcrum seesaws, or overhead rings. Developmentally appropriate play areas for older kids (5-12) should encourage social growth and cooperation. These older children might enjoy rope or chain climbers, horizontal bars, tire swings, and open areas for sports play.

Fall Surfacing


Here’s a statistic we are all-too-familiar with: 70 percent of all playground injuries are related to falls. That’s why safety is a huge aspect in playground design. For example, do platforms have guardrails and do they allow kids to easily get on or off a structure? Is equipment designed in such a way to prevent climbing outside the structure?

You can’t think of every possible scenario that might lead to a fall, so safety surfacing is a must. Asphalt, cement, dirt, and grass are not acceptable for areas under and around playground equipment. Playground safety experts generally recommend that you choose loose-fill or synthetic surface materials. Although wood mulch is commonly used because of its inexpensive up-front cost compared to other surfaces, it does not provide the long-term savings or the safety ratings of poured-in-place rubber, unitary, or loose rubber mulch.


When considering a safety surfacing for your playground, ask the following questions:

  • What is the height of the equipment on the playground?
  • What is the depth needed for the surfacing?
  • Where should the surfacing be placed?
  • Does it meet American Society for Testing & Materials standards (ASTM) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines?
  • Does it have a proven track record in similar climates?
  • Will it meet your needs for durability, drainage, and accessibility?

Play areas should include stable paths surfaced with a certified material that has been tested to meet ADA guidelines, such as No Fault Safety Surface. You also need to make sure loose fill material (like No Fault Rubber Mulch) is appropriately deep. Concrete footings need to be covered, as well, to protect against those inevitable head bumps.

Equipment Maintenance

Don’t forget that play spaces have to be maintained for safety and longevity. This maintenance means making sure wooden playground equipment is free from splinters and metal is free from rust. Drainage should be working properly, and any damage to play equipment or safety surfacing should be monitored and addressed. Keep an eye out for protruding bolts and cracks in plastic equipment. You should establish a maintenance schedule based on your play equipment manufacturers’ recommended maintenance guidelines. 

No Fault Keeps Kids Safe

The Safety Report Card is a great place to begin if you want to make sure you’re incorporating safety elements on your playground. You can see the Safety Report Card here. If you’re not sure about what “next steps” to take, we can help! Contact No Fault Surfaces and we will help you keep your play areas as safe as they can be!

4 Outdoor Trends in Fitness

Everyone knows that spending time outdoors is better for you than vegging out on the couch. Kids and adults who spend more time outside see benefits to both their physical and mental health.

With spring right around the corner, there’s no reason to be cooped up in the gym either. Here are four great ways you can join in on the outdoor fitness fun with new twists on outdoor workout spaces.

We’ll also take a look at some of the park and recreation safety surfacing products that are used in these environments to make them safer, more attractive and more fun.

  1.  Obstacle Courses

Once found only in military boot camp, the obstacle course now plays the starring role in the TV show Ninja Warrior and is the inspiration behind Tough Mudder, a series of muddy obstacle races inspired by British Special Forces training.

These are tests of strength, endurance and—in some cases—smarts as participants look to find the best way over walls, up rope ladders and through mucky pits. It’s an aerobic workout like none other, and the more intense courses take endurance training to master.

Although these areas may be modeled after military courses, they are publicly accessible and suit a wide range of ages. Obstacle courses are a fun way to get kids and the rest of the family moving. Challenge courses for children might include foam-covered hurdles and plastic trapeze rings.

Participants can time how long it takes to get through a course, adding a dimension of competiveness and social interaction.

Many parks departments around the country are hosting organized “challenge course” programs that promote team-building and cooperation, while obstacle course races like the Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder are true athletic tests of stamina and fortitude.

If you’re building an obstacle course, you might want to consider using a rubber surfacing product like No Fault Safety Surface.  It is a combination of EPDM or TPV rubber granules and a cushion layer of shredded recycled rubber.  It is manufactured on-site and poured in place, providing a unitary, shock-absorbing surface. No Fault rubber safety surfacing products can incorporate creative designs, patterns and graphics.

2.  Public Fitness Zones

The public park isn’t just for slides and merry-go-rounds. Now, kids and adults can get physically fit with a visit to their local park or public green space. Some parks are even adopting the term “outdoor fitness park” to describe what they offer. Best of all, there’s no membership fee, unlike the local gym. These parks provide exercise equipment strategically placed along jogging paths, letting users work on muscle tone, flexibility, and cardio training.

Outdoor gyms are an investment in healthier lifestyles while building better parks and stronger communities.

Free outdoor gyms for teens and adults have been cropping up in public parks areas, residential developments and business complexes in the last few years. Sometimes called “adult playgrounds,” these fitness zones have a lot more to offer than a set of chin-up bars or two.

The best fitness zones in large metropolitan areas have equipment to accommodate workouts of different types: strength training, cardio-vascular (aerobics) and flexibility/stretching. They incorporate ADA accessible equipment to make the zone inclusive for all. All equipment is sturdy and can withstand all weather conditions. Combined with nearby jogging trails, tennis courts or basketball courts, fitness zones makes the outdoor fitness experience complete for everyone.

You don’t have to settle for a treadmill to get your run on. Head for the happy trails of the great outdoors. In some cities, these trails feature exercise stations with things like traverse rings, pull up bars, and climbing walls, so users can easily get in a whole body workout.

No Fault Safety Surface was installed in Bonham, Texas. This kind of a jogging/walking trail is perfect for CrossFit or Public Fitness Zones.

Public fitness zones can be great for CrossFit workouts, which incorporate interval training, weightlifting and more. There is probably already a trailside CrossFit group or outdoor boot camp near you. These social workouts are extremely fun and include drills, bodyweight exercises, and endurance training. So if you’re looking for community spirit and the kind of motivation that comes in a group workout outdoors, think about getting in the zone!

3.  Make Nightclubs a Morning Thing

Ever been to a 7 a.m. dance party?  Generally speaking, the club scene is the antithesis of a healthy workout. But this fitness trend means getting together with friends for high-energy dance moves to a DJ’s beats, and you’re more likely to have a smoothie or kombucha in one hand than a cocktail.

Whether they’re happening in the great outdoors (the park is a great place to watch the sun rise) or in an actual music venue, an early-morning rave might take some getting used to. But for a lot of young adults, electronic music and stimulating lights are a better way to start the day than high-cal muffins and caramel lattes.

While early-morning aerobics, Pilates and spin classes are often accompanied by up-tempo music, these sober dance parties take place in parks or large venues that recreate the look and feel of a noisy nightclub.

Dancers enjoy the social aspect that comes with clubbing. They come garbed in the typical yoga pants and gym clothes, or they may choose something a little more exciting.

Sessions are often led by professional dancers. A company called Daybreaker has hosted two-hour morning dance parties (called “Awakenings”) in cities including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta. A competitor called Morning Gloryville has been doing the same thing on an international scale

4.  Getting into the Swing With Miniature Golf 

“Real” golf is downright boring compared to the giant dinosaurs, windmills, arch bridges, and loop-the-loops you find in miniature golf, or “putt-putt” golf.

In 2017 American mini golf officially turned 100 years old, since the first course in the States was created in North Carolina in 1916. Its popularity over ensuing decades can be chalked up to how family-friendly and fun the game is, though there is an element of serious competition as well. Indeed, The World MiniGolf Sports Federation recently joined the General Association of the International Sports Federation, meaning it could eventually become an Olympic event!

So what qualifies a game of mini golf as a fitness trend? It seems that mini golf has gotten big in Europe in recent years, and it has even spread as far away as China. New courses are appearing all the time, and the layouts are getting more and more creative, with themes and hazards never before imagined becoming more common.

For example, Portland’s Glowing Greens boasts a glow-in-the-dark mini-golf adventure under black lights and creepy skeleton sculptures. And Molten Mountain in South Carolina is a grueling 36-hole course inside an “active” volcano (well, an air-conditioned volcano that “erupts” every half hour).

Ok, but what about fitness? It turns out miniature golf isn’t a bad way to get cardiovascular exercise, and you can burn around 300 calories during a game of nine holes. Players of all ages will develop hand-eye coordination as walking and putting works out various muscles in their body. Besides, any chance to spend some time in the fresh air with friends is going to have a relaxing effect on your body and mind.

No Fault can help you choose the right surfacing for your indoor and outdoor fitness areas. Contact us today.