Safety of Crumb Rubber Artificial Turf

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The debate over the safety of a certain form of artificial turf on which the nation’s kids (and adults) play every day is drawing national attention, yet federal agencies still refuse to answer questions about the material that has many parents concerned every time their children head out to participate in a soccer or football game.

Though NBC News has been diligent about covering the growing concern about crumb rubber turf, the head honcho at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would not answer questions about the material that were posed to her on-camera. That makes parents around the country wonder whether or not she has something to hide.

Safety of Crumb Rubber Artificial TurfCrumb Rubber Artificial Turf Skepticism

Proponents for the artificial turf industry maintain that there’s no evidence that crumb rubber artificial turf has any connection with illness, including cancer, but parents, coaches, and others remain on edge and are demanding more testing before the material is installed on any other fields in the U.S. As a matter of fact, California State Senator Jerry Hill even proposed legislation this year that would have postponed any further installations until after more comprehensive testing, reported NBC News.

Testing would seem appropriate given the fact that coaches like Amy Griffin of the University of Washington are spotting worrisome cancer diagnoses among soccer players – mostly goalies – who once played daily on the crumb rubber-containing turf. Griffin, after being featured on an NBC news report, now has a list of more than five dozen goaltenders who have the same form of cancer. She’s saddened by the growing compilation of names and wishes these same people who called her to report their illnesses would call the government and demand testing.

Carcinogen Stew

Mostly, the concern over the turf lies in the little black dots that make up its rubber infill, which are made from pulverized tires. Chemicals found in tires include benzene, mercury, lead, arsenic, and a host of other materials that are known carcinogens. Are these the kinds of materials parents want their children exposed to for three or more hours a day, several days a week?

While NBC News stresses that Griffin’s list does not constitute a scientific data set, the facts are enough to scare America’s soccer moms and dads, who simply want some definitive answers from the EPA or any other government agency willing to gather the facts and present them to the public. Though the EPA announced in 2008-2009 that crumb rubber turf was safe, lately their tune has changed.

Last spring, Elliot Kaye of the Consumer Product Safety Commission backpedaled a bit in a speech to the House Energy Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, stating that “safe to play on means something to parents that I don’t think we intended to convey and that we shouldn’t have conveyed.”

Now, all eyes will be on a study recently commissioned by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment that is intent on answering the question about the safety of crumb rubber turf once and for all. Unfortunately, it’ll take at least three years to complete. In the meantime, Griffin’s list – sadly – continues to grow.