- October 23
- Evans & Herlihy
- Personal Injury
On many playgrounds and sports fields nationwide, artificial turf has replaced natural grass turf. It’s easier to maintain, requires no water, and it may reduce the blunt force of a fall. But some people have begun to wonder if artificial turf poses health risks.
The turf combines green fibers with infill – bits of loose material interspersed in the fibers that make the surface resilient. The most widely used infill is crumb rubber made from recycled tires, and tires contain toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the effects of which are not fully understood.
So, what does the Consumer Product Safety Commission have to say about this product? Not much, presently. It’s providing technical assistance for California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which is planning a thorough study of crumb rubber to measure its effects on health.
In a statement on the CPSC website, Chairman Elliot Kaye said it will take time to measure the effects of crumb rubber, and a clear conclusion is not guaranteed, adding, “Progress will remain slow until Congress finally treats the potential exposure of our children to harmful chemicals as the public health priority that it should be.”
Cause for Concern
In 2009, Amy Griffin, a soccer coach at the University of Washington got some disturbing news. She was at a hospital, visiting one of two female goalies recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, when a nurse told her the patient was one of four goalies treated in the hospital that week for cancer.
Goalies dive into the turf over and over again during a soccer game, and crumb rubber infill flies from the surface on each impact. It clings to clothing and hair, gets stuck in abrasions on the skin, and it can easily enter the mouth or nose. Griffin wondered if crumb rubber could be making goalies sick.
In 2014, she told NBC News that since 2009, she had identified 38 soccer players who had been diagnosed with cancer; 34 of them were goalies. Meanwhile, studies of crumb rubber have found the material to be safe, but limited sample sizes and a narrow scope of investigation means there’s still a lot scientists don’t know about the crumb rubber’s potential health hazards.
The California agency that is set to thoroughly investigate crumb rubber has previously studied it, and it released its findings in a 2010 report. However, researchers analyzed only inhalation and skin infection hazards, sampling air above artificial turf and bacteria in the turf.
The study found no measurable risk of inhaling hazardous levels of chemicals or compounds, but researchers said some factors were unknown: whether field age, tire recycling method, and the source of the tires had an impact on how a turf may release chemicals and compounds into the air. Researchers also said that they studied only outdoor fields, and because VOCs are known to accumulate indoors, future testing of indoor fields should be considered.
Tires contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a group of 100 chemicals. The Department of Health and Human Services says some PAHs “may reasonably be expected to be carcinogens” and that people who have breathed or touched mixtures of PAHs and other chemicals over long periods of time have developed cancer.
Some communities are not willing to rely on the existing inconclusive evidence about crumb rubber’s safety. In Maryland, Montgomery County officials ruled that public funding may not be used for crumb rubber turf fields; only natural grass fields or synthetic turf with alternative infill may use public funds.
When people conclude that there is no evidence to indicate crumb rubber infill is unsafe, that doesn’t mean it’s safe, either. The health effects can’t be fully understood without further studies.
If you have questions about how crumb rubber might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Austin, TX-based Evans Law Firm. As personal injury attorneys with years of experience, we help the people of Texas put their lives back on track. We offer small law firm attention with big law firm results. Call today at 1-855-414-1012 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.