Synthetic turf
In 1966, the first artificial turf field was constructed by placing synthetic “grass” on top of concrete slabs. Athletes complained this thin, hard surface caused serious injuries. Since then, synthetic turf has improved and evolved into its present state. Most athletic fields now contain styrene butadiene rubber, or “crumb rubber,” -tiny black crumbs made from ground-up car tires spread in between the plastic blades of fake grass. These “black dots” give the field more cushion and help prevent injury. We now have more than 11,000 synthetic sport fields in use, most contain crumb rubber, and many of these fields are used for children’s soccer activities. Crumb rubber infill is also used in playgrounds and gardens. Some college soccer coaches have recently noticed that an unusual number of their goalkeepers have contracted blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia. One coach compiled a list of 38 American soccer players diagnosed with cancer, and found that 34 were goalies. They say goalies experience the highest exposure to crumb rubber due to repeated dives and constant contact with the turf. The result is that a significant amount of these rubber particles contaminate cuts and scrapes, and get into eyes, noses and mouths. These coaches believe this is the reason their players are getting sick - most of whom have spent countless hours over many years practicing and playing on these kinds of fields. Furthermore, it is known that athletic fields are usually 10-20 degrees warmer than the ambient air temperature, causing carcinogens such as benzene, carbon black and lead to be released from crumb rubber and concentrating in the air above a field. Health problems caused by exposure to these chemicals and dusts have previously been documented in workers who manufacture tires. Some limited studies have shown crumb rubber is not a health problem, but most of these studies admit their findings are not conclusive and that more studies need to be done. Advocates say a comprehensive study of any potential health risks from crumb rubber is needed to assess its safety and continued use. The EPA has resisted this request saying that it is a matter which should be individually addressed by each state.

Pending Legislation: None

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March 26, 2020
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April 1, 2020

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