Shredded waste tires have been sold as crumb rubber infill for synthetic turf fields and as rubber mulch to surface our youngest children’s playgrounds before testing was done to see if the material was safe for these uses.
Industry continues to claim that there are studies that prove the synthetic turf fields and rubber mulch playgrounds are safe. If no one actually reads and analyzes these studies, then there is no one to dispute these claims.
Although industry acknowledges that many of the studies have found numerous toxic compounds, they claim that the levels are too low to be dangerous to human health. Yet the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that even when there is low-level exposure to an individual chemical that might not cause cancer, when many low level chemicals act together they can indeed cause cancer. This important finding emerged from an international task force of more than 170 cancer scientists, known as the Halifax Project. The task force collaboratively assessed the carcinogenic potential of low-dose exposures to chemical mixtures in the environment.
A study conducted at Yale University on crumb rubber and playground rubber mulch found 96 chemicals in the material, and 12 of those were carcinogenic; an additional 20 were found to be irritants, some were respiratory irritants. With 10 percent of children having asthma, playing on a waste tire crumb rubber surface that contains respiratory irritants is not a good idea.
Amy Griffen, the women’s soccer coach at University of Washington has been collecting cancer data from those athletes who have played on synthetic turf, gotten cancer and have known to contact her. Of the 248 athletes that have reported to her of their cancers, 155 have blood cancers. That number is significant because there is a preponderance of blood cancers, and they are more susceptible to environmental effects. As well, the majority of the soccer players who have gotten cancer are the goalkeepers, and this number is also significant because the goalkeepers are the most heavily exposed to the crumb rubber infill that is in the synthetic turf fields.
With 12 known carcinogens in the waste tire infill material, these cancer numbers cannot be taken lightly. Even if people say the numbers of cancers are not any higher than in the general population — they cannot dispute the fact that the goalkeepers are the majority of those getting cancer — and they are the most heavily exposed.
Because the synthetic turf industry continues to claim they have studies that prove their synthetic turf fields are safe, Environment and Human Health Inc. undertook a study to look into those claims and read many of those studies. EHHI has just released a new report, “Synthetic Turf: Industry’s Claims Versus the Science”; that report can be found at http://www.ehhi.org
Environment and Human Health Inc. maintains that there is no safer surface for athletic play than natural grass. If towns and schools would take half the money they put into synthetic turf fields and invest instead in state-of-the-art natural grass fields, our children, athletes and our planet would be healthier.