Tire residues detected in leafy vegetables

A recent study conducted by researchers from the Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science of the University of Vienna, Austria, has shed light on a potential health risk associated with leafy vegetables grown near roads and highways. The study, which examined the presence of tire-derived compounds in leafy greens, has revealed that these substances have become widespread contaminants in the food supply across Europe.    

Tires are composed of a complex mixture of materials, including hundreds of additives, such as antioxidants and vulcanizers, aimed at enhancing their performance and durability. As tires degrade over time due to friction on the roads, these compounds are released into the environment, ultimately finding their way into the soil, air, and water sources used for irrigating crops.    

The study, conducted in real field conditions rather than a laboratory setting, analyzed 28 samples of commonly consumed leafy vegetables, including spinach, lettuce, and kale, procured from Austria, Spain, Israel, and Italy. The findings revealed the presence of 16 different tire-related compounds in the vegetable samples, with 71% of the samples containing one or more of these substances.    

Although the concentrations of these compounds were relatively low, ranging from 0.04 to 1 296 nanograms per person per day based on estimated vegetable consumption, the ubiquity of their presence is cause for concern.  

While the levels of tire-derived compounds were comparable to those of pharmaceutical drug residues detected in leafy vegetables, the long-term effects of chronic exposure and the potential for bioaccumulation and synergistic effects remain significant concerns.    

The study highlights the importance of further research to investigate the consequences of continuous intake and to better comprehend the pathways through which these compounds find their way into vegetables.