One of many emails concerning rubber tire mulch

Jan 18 (9 days ago)

to Art, anne.harala, david.kirby, rosalie, alanna.oswald, Nora, me

Thank you for sharing these slides. I will read through them when I have more time and I will share the information with parents at Myers Wilkins. The summary of data you provided above really helps to put the budget into perspective. I hope that you will communicate this with the larger public.

I attended the meeting last night not to undo the work of DPHP or to undermine the mothers from Lowell, or to confuse board members, but to ease my conscience.

I wrote the Literature Review that helped to convince you and the public to take our group seriously and then I was taken to task by someone with far more expertise than anyone I know on the subject. She read my report and reviewed the articles I cited and accused me of having confirmation bias. As someone who teaches students at UMD how to conduct responsible primary and secondary research, I realized that I had not heeded my own advice to “weigh the evidence and then carefully consider: could someone else use the same evidence to draw the opposite conclusion?” That was when I realized that yes, they could. It helps to explain why the product remains unregulated.

It has also helped me to realize that being a responsible researcher is not always compatible with being a successful activist.

I am not saying that the fears around the mulch are unfounded- but I wanted to establish that replacing the mulch might not be as urgent as I originally thought.

I am very pleased with last night’s outcome. I applaud the Board for choosing EWF and rejecting another tire waste product and for requesting multiple bids that will consider different timelines and numbers of playgrounds.

My reply:

Thank you ***** for your work,

I find it impossible to fault anyone willing to be so open about their research and willing to acknowledge the possibility of “confirmation bias” in their “activism.”

I have always been and remain skeptical of the danger of toxicity in our tire mulch. That said, I also understand that once fears are raised they are hard to stamp out – witness the crusade to avoid childhood vaccinations.

Even though the early research has not yet shown a threat of toxicity and even though we can’t anticipate that future studies will confirm this I can’t completely ignore the alarm that the threat of toxicity has raised locally. I will ultimately make up my mind based on several factors. 1. worries of future enrollment losses due to families who feel the District has not been supportive. 2. the threat of removing operational money from the classroom for this “capital” expenditure. If the latter can be avoided it will be easier for me to vote to change out the tire mulch.

Because the bids will take roughly 90 days to be returned and because they may allow us to spread costs out over two or three years I have some time to ponder this expenditure. l will also be encouraging parents to lobby the legislature to change a law that prevents us from tapping into our capital moneys for the mulch replacement before the playgrounds are considered to be in need of it.

I understand that some parents have been unhappy to hear your apparent change of heart but that only confirms your sincerity and scrupulousness. Science is under threat from many sides these days so much so that I’m thinking about traveling to Washington D.C. for the protest march in defense of scientists.

If I should vote to replace the mulch before its due date it will not be because I was pushed by your earliest concerns which you had every right and even the responsibility to share with us. It will be based on a rational calculation about what is best for the District and the peace of mind of our families.


Harry Welty

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