Artificial Turf May Cause Cancer. The Wall Street Journal report, the artificial turf fields have gone mainstream in the past 10 years and may found in large stadiums, middle and high schools, and city parks, and were installed at costs between $400,000 and $700,000. Many fields installed between 2006 and 2009 are allegedly flawed and degrading, forcing schools to replace playing fields they initially believed would last for at least one decade.
Artificial turf and other fake grass are also used in:
- Artificial putting greens, putting green turf, backyard putting greens
- Soccer fields
- Football fields
- Fake grass for dogs
- Fake grass rugs and other artificial grass, such as synthetic lawns
Our firm is investigating potential class action lawsuits involving injuries associated with artificial turf and the black crumb used in the turf and other fake grass.
Crumb Rubber Soccer/Football Turf Mats May Harm Human and Environmental Health
There is growing concern about the potential health and environmental hazards associated with the recycled tire rubber used to make crumb rubber in artificial turf. According to NBC News, the artificial turf is made up of man-made fibers and scrap tires from tens of thousands of tires involving numerous brands. Tires may contain myriad substances such as benzene, carbon black, and lead. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated that mercury, lead, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic, several other chemicals and heavy metals, and carcinogens, have been found in tires.
Many claim that the crumb used in artificial turf has been inadequately tested and that few studies have measured the risk of ingesting crumb rubber orally or dermally (through the skin). Also, lead chromate pigment is used to make the artificial turf’s grass green and maintain its color in sunlight. It remains unclear how widely the compound is used; however, the New Jersey Health Department found lead in nylon in two artificial turf fields it previously tested. Both were AstroTurf brand surfaces. At issue is also that crumb rubber fields are made with myriad materials from what NBC News described as tens of thousands of tires from various brands.
Monsanto invented artificial turf in 1964. At that time, artificial turf was a form of synthetic grass placed over concrete and known as “ChemGrass.” “ChemGrass” became “AstroTurf” in 1966 after the product was installed in Houston’s Astrodome. Later, in the early 2000s, another version that was known as styrene butadiene rubber—“crumb rubber”—contained tiny black crumbs made from crushed car tires poured in between the fake grass blades. The crumbs were meant to provide improved bounce and cushion to help prevent serious injuries, including concussions, NBC News wrote.
Soccer Coach Documents Dozens of Cases of Recycled Tire Rubber Lawns – Cancer Link
In 2009, the associate head coach for the University of Washington’s women’s soccer in Seattle, Washington, noticed a trend with soccer goalies and cancer diagnoses, according to a recent NBC News report. The coach was visiting a goalie undergoing chemotherapy when a nurse mentioned that the patient was the fourth goalie she had seen with cancer in just one week. The coach knew of two, young female goalies diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and has collected the names of 38 American soccer players who have been diagnosed with cancer; 34 are, or were, goalies. The cancers involved, for the most part, have included lymphoma and leukemia.
Artificial turf fields appear throughout the United States and are located in tens of thousands of locations, including high schools, playgrounds, and multi-million-dollar professional athletic complexes. The small black rubber crumbs get into players’ hair, cleats, mouths, nasal passages, and uniforms. Goalkeepers, who are in ongoing contact with artificial turf and may make hundreds of dives during practices and games, receive even more exposure with the rubber getting into their mouths and into any scrapes, cuts, or other abrasions, noted NBC News.
While industry groups, such as the Synthetic Turf Council, indicate that artificial turf is safe, environmental advocates seek Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) assistance in looking more deeply into the product. Both agencies conducted research over five years ago and, recently, both have reversed prior assurances that the turf is safe, now describing their research as “limited.” In fact, in a statement, the EPA told NBC News that “more testing needs to be done,” but that the matter is a “state and local decision,” and the agency would not commission future research.
“There’s a host of concerns that are being raised,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, an environmental watchdog group that has submitted complaints against both agencies. “None have risen to the level of regulatory interest,” Ruch added.
Research on Artificial Turf
Studies reveal that crumb rubber fields emit gases that may be inhaled and research has sought to measure the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals through the inhalation of gases and particulates, and skin contact. Artificial turf fields may become very hot, as much as 10-15 degrees hotter than surrounding temperature, which raises the likelihood that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals may “off-gas,” or leach, into the air, according to NBC News.
Research conducted by the state of Connecticut measured VOC and other chemical concentrations in the air over rubber crumb fields. VOCs that include benzene and methylene chloride, and a number of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were discovered. While the report concluded that “the use of outdoor and indoor artificial turf fields is not associated with elevated health risks,” the researchers noted that additional research was needed to better understand chemical exposures on outdoor fields during hot weather and in indoor facilities. Higher levels of chemicals are seen in both of these situations. This is not the first time that such research has called for additional research.
Other research has reviewed if run-off from crumb rubber turf is harmful to aquatic life and how the injury rate compares to the injury rate seen on natural grass. Only minimal research has reviewed issues associated with the prevalence of cancer, specifically to goalkeepers and if ingesting crumb rubber particles—by mouth or through cuts, abrasions, and scrapes—is dangerous, NBC News reported.
Research conducted in 2012 revealed that a large number of rubber crumb playgrounds were investigated and a number of harmful chemicals at dangerous levels was confirmed, including 31 different PHAs described by the researchers as “remarkable.”
Another study published in 2013 in the scientific journal, Chemospheres reviewed rubber mulch and rubber mats, and found that, “Uses of recycled rubber tires, especially those targeting play areas and other facilities for children, should be a matter of regulatory concern.” A Norwegian study conducted in 2006 that looked at inhalation, ingestion, and skin exposure to crumb rubber in indoor artificial turf fields identified VOCs, including xylene, acetone and styrene, in the air above the fields. A 2013 study looked at ingestion, inhalation, and skin exposure risks and, among other items, identified lead in the artificial turf tested, including a “large concentration” of lead and chromium in one sample. “As the turf material degrades from weathering the lead could be released, potentially exposing young children,” the report also states, according to NBC News.
Dr. Joel Forman, associate professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, noted that the studies’ data gaps make it difficult to draw firm conclusions. “None of [the studies] are long term, they rarely involve very young children, and they only look for concentrations of chemicals and compare it to some sort of standard for what’s considered acceptable,” said Dr. Forman. “That doesn’t really take into account subclinical effects, long-term effects, the developing brain and developing kids.” In fact, Dr. Forman noted that it is widely known that some compound found in tires, “even in chronic lower exposures” may be tied to subtle neurodevelopmental issues in children. “Those are always suspect,” he said. “If you never study anything,” said Dr. Forman, “you can always say, ‘Well there’s no evidence that’s a problem,’ but that’s because you haven’t looked. To look is hard.” “I would like to see some more research,” he concluded, according to NBC News.
In 2008, tests performed by the state of New Jersey discovered lead on three artificial turf fields. Also in 2008, an official from a regional EPA office wrote to three agency offices in Washington D.C., such as the Office of Children’s Health Protection. The official recommended the EPA conduct extensive testing, according to documents obtained by the watchdog group PEER. “My staff has reviewed the published research on the safety of tire crumb,” wrote the official, “and has found information suggesting that children’s chronic, repeated exposure to tire crumb could present health hazards. However, sufficient data to quantify toxicological risks from tire crumb exposure are not available,” NBC News reported.
The Industry maintains that rubber crumb is safe; however, in response to complaints filed by PEER, the CPSC and the EPA both acknowledged in 2013 that their research was limited in scope. The CPSC wrote that, “The exposure assessment did not include chemicals or other toxic metals, beyond lead.” Since its first tests, the Commission has collaborated with industry to create voluntary standards for lead content.
Cities Eliminating Use of Rubber Crumb
Some cities are replacing crumb rubber turf for alternative fill, such as coconut fiber and cork. For
example, the New York City Parks Department stopped installing the product in 2008.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Unified School District stopped using crumb and, in Maryland, the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition has been organizing in opposition of a bill to allocate state funds to build artificial turf fields. Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition has also been attempting to advance legislation to mandate warning signs be placed around artificial turf fields.
Also, for about four years, citizens and advocacy groups have fought against installing rubber crumb fields in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and two turf-related propositions are on the ballot for the city’s next elections. One proposition would bar the city from installing the fields in Golden Gate Park; the other would provide broader latitude to the city’s Parks and Recreation department to install similar projects, NBC News reported.
Environmental group, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), led litigation against a number of artificial turf companies in California over a Proposition 65 violation, which is a state law prohibiting companies from intentionally exposing consumers to specific chemicals and heavy metals, such as lead, with no clear warning. The companies agreed, in various settlements, to reduce the lead in their products sold in California and will also replace artificial turf fields under certain conditions. Caroline Cox, CEH research director, said that although research has not definitively deemed crumb rubber turf harmful, the surface does contain hazardous chemicals. “We know they’re there,” said Cox. “The point is, let’s go with better alternatives instead of spending years and millions of dollars establishing harm. If there’s a better way to do this, let’s just do it.
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