A kid playing with a ball at a playground

Playground Surfaces

According to the Children’s Environmental Health Network, the seven most common surface/filler materials for playgrounds are: pea gravel, sand, bark mulch/ wood chips, engineered wood fiber, crumb rubber, synthetic tiles, and poured in place. ​​Each surface material has benefits as well as health concerns in terms of maintenance, longevity, exposure to toxic chemicals, and ASTM (the American Society for Testing and Materials) impact standards. Other considerations beyond those covered here, including the impact attenuation performance of materials, must be considered before choosing a material.

Proposed procurement goals: 
  • Require disclosure of PFAS in all products considered for purchase: Michigan Executive Directive 2021-8, Reducing State Purchases of Products Containing Intentionally Added PFAS 
  • Eliminate crumb rubber (used either as-is or as part of a poured-in-place playground) for all playgrounds 
  • Prefer natural materials where possible for all playgrounds
  • Where artificial materials cannot be avoided, 100% of surfaces selected: 
    • Do not use surfaces or filler that advertises antimicrobial protection
    • Surface and synthetic fillers have been tested and do not contain: 
      • PFAS
      • PVC
      • Benzothiazoles, isobutyl ketone, bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or PAHs
      • Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) 
      • All toxic metals including lead
    • Require strict VOC/SVOC testing for products that at a minimum are tested for: methyl isobutyl ketone, benzothiazole, toluene, styrene, aniline, m/p xylenes, o-xylene, 4-tert-octylphenol, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, m/p-xylenes, formaldehyde, pyrene, and styrene
    • Use plant-based or mineral-based filler over synthetic filler
    • Publicly post information on surface material use and VOC/SVOC testing on all playgrounds where artificial materials are used  
  • Require product ingredient disclosure on all contracts for the turf, filler, and shock pad
  • Require end of life take back, recycling, or extended producer responsibility programs for products purchased
Case studies and resources: