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Potatoes are one of the world’s staple food sources, Gardener’s just love growing this vegetable for its huge crops, and amazing versatility in the kitchen. Over the year’s gardeners have grown potatoes in the ground, raised beds, containers, and lately, I have seen many gardeners growing potatoes in tires. Knowing very little about tires I decided to look into it in a little more detail.
Is it safe to grow potatoes in tires? Despite what you may have heard, as an organic gardener, I still believe that potatoes are not safe to grow in tires. Tires contain lots of chemicals such as Lead, Benzene, Styrene, and even Microplastics. As I didn’t really know what these were, I researched it further. Here is what I found out!
I know I have said I don’t believe tires to be safe to grow potatoes in, but it is not quite as straightforward as this. So, in this post, I hope to provide you with the evidence that I found in order for you to make a much more informed decision. Then you can decide for yourself whether it is safe to grow potatoes in tires.
Is the composition of tires safe to grow potatoes in?
We all know that tires are made of rubber and chemicals but are these chemicals harmful and can they poison our foods making them unsafe for consumption. In order to understand what’s going on, we need to know the composition of tires. I contacted various manufacturers for their safety Datasheets for their products. I was amazed at what I found.
A typical tire is made up of some or all of the following chemicals and products. I researched why these particular chemicals were used in the makeup of the tire, in order to understand why they were there in the first place.
- Synthetic rubbers and polymers made from petroleum
- Sulfur is added to vulcanize the rubber
- Lead compounds are added as a stabilizer
- Zinc oxide is used as a catalyst
- Carbon black is added as a filler and to make it UV resistant
- Microplastic is used to change the hardness of the tire
- Oil is used to make it more malleable to form
Other stabilizing chemicals used that could be bad for growing potatoes in tires
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
I couldn’t even pronounce some of these words above, let alone know if they were safe or not. But being a firefighter, I was able to firstly look at the chemical data book that we keep on all frontline fire engines. I learned enough from that to know that some of these chemicals have some real bad characteristics.
I knew that as far as firefighting methods these chemicals were not good and could damage health. However, that didn’t cover firstly whether these chemicals could break down into the soil and later be taken up into a potatoes root system.
So, in order to understand each of these further, I contacted the makers of each of these chemicals and asked for their Material Safety Data Sheets. These sheets have all the relevant information about each chemical, its makeup, how it reacts with water and other chemicals.
The damages to health and what it can be used for. This information would allow me to ascertain whether each chemical is safe to grow potatoes in the tire. Most but not all of them can cause some of the following issues if there is enough exposure.
When growing potatoes in tires what issues could arise from the chemicals in those tires?
- May cause genetic defects
- May cause cancer
- Can cause serious eye damage
- May cause skin irritation
- May be fatal if swallowed
- Can cause damage to organs over prolonged use.
Studies performed to show if growing potatoes in tires are safe
Earlier in the post, we mentioned Lead. A UK study found 1160 ppm lead in the soil of a tire dumpsite. (source). This fact is something to consider because it is likely the eventual breakdown and severe degradation of the tires are the source of this contamination.
Zinc can be toxic to humans, but in my research, I found that those amounts have to be quite high, and symptoms will retreat by simply discontinuing consumption of the product. This is due to the fact that people are able to metabolize zinc
In a study looking at leachates from ground-up rubber tires, (source) zinc was said to be present in amounts that may be harmful to plants, but the study authors concluded that toxicity to humans was unlikely.
We all know tires degrade with age and the amount of degradation is important in ascertaining how heavy the leeching into your soil will be. This can also be sped up by using fertilizers that may react with the compounds of the tire.
There are over 300 Tire Brands produced in the World and each of them has its own unique makeup so I can’t cover them all in this blog. But for me, a Tire is a tire. It is packed full of harmful chemicals and many of them are carcinogens.
If you decide to continue using tires to grow food after reading this blog post, then here are a few tips to reduce the likelihood of contaminating your soil.
What can I do to reduce risks of contamination when growing potatoes in tires?
- Only use tires for 2-3 years maximum
- Slow down its deterioration by storing it away from weather when not in use.
- Lift, the tire from the soil and place on a pallet
- Consider growing flowers or other non-edible plants in tires instead of vegetables.
So, what are your thoughts now after reading this post? Will you be growing in tires again?
Weather effects on tire degradation when growing potatoes in tires
The weather will also have an adverse effect on the tire. Causing the tire to crack and degrade as the thawing and freezing process will weaken the compounds which will help break it down. This will release the microplastics and the chemicals into your soil over time. Many of these chemicals and microplastics are water-soluble and can be taken up into your plant’s root structure. In turn, this is passed on to your body when you consume the potatoes.
After all this information, is it safe to grow potatoes in tires?
More than two dozen studies have attempted to measure the potential health risks of growing food in tires. While many have found no negative health effects, some doctors and toxicologists believe these studies are limited and insufficient to establish conclusively that these chemicals are not absorbed by the body. Further study is required into the consumption of these chemicals and whether the plants absorb them in enough quantities to negatively affect the human body.
Grow In Containers Instead of Tires
I understand the reasons that some folks decide to use tires to grow potatoes in. The first of these is that they may have a rocky ground or poor soil quality. It may be to raise the growing area so gardeners with back pain can reach.
There is a much safer and economical way to grow potatoes. Why not try growing potatoes in containers. This will give you all the same benefits you thought you would get from tires, but without the chemicals. If you would like to know more about this way of growing potatoes and see how I doubled my harvest in a small space. Check out this blog post. or even the video below.
I have tried to be as thorough and non-biased as possible with this article. You now have all the facts that I was able to find about whether it is safe to grow potatoes in tires. With this information, you can now make a more informed decision as to whether the risk is acceptable to you and your family or not.
I strive to be organic in my garden and I grow my own food to be able to control what my family is eating, to be healthier and safer than I would be from buying vegetables that I have no control over. You wouldn’t see me pouring roundup or glyphosate on my garden, so why on earth would I use tires. However, I appreciate that not everyone is the same as me and has no issues using chemicals.
As the studies have not proved or disproved it is harmful to human beings, I plan to aid on the side of caution. With all these very harmful ingredients I don’t plan on my children becoming a statistic. After all, years ago, they said smoking was safe. Now there are millions of people who are very ill or dead because of it. Why risk it?
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Remember folks; You Reap What You Sow!