A PSA on Crumb Rubber Fields from Synodi & Videll, LLC
I almost never watch nightly news so it had to be God’s gentle nudging of me that I happened to tune in a few weeks ago to see a piece on NBC Nightly News on crumb rubber playing fields and their potential toxicity. The segment focused on a Seattle soccer coach who had two goalies diagnosed with blood cancers; she thought it was just unfortunate bad luck until she took one of the girls in for chemo and had a nurse say that the player was the fourth goalie she had hooked up for chemo that week. The coach compiled a list of players that had been diagnosed with cancer and found a strikingly high incidence of cancer in goalies that had played on that field. Admittedly, there is no official scientific link, but it sure looks suspicious.
Since this is the first year that my daughter Sophia has gotten the opportunity to play under the lights for U14 New London Soccer at New London High School, this stopped me in my tracks. Because she is a cancer survivor, we don’t take any chances. I don’t ever use pesticides; I scrub my oven instead of oven cleaner or self clean burn; I don’t allow her to get x-rays of any kinds unless absolutely necessary. While someone else might be willing to spin the wheel a little, there isn’t a lot of room for error with her. No, she isn’t a goalie, but I know that cancer doesn’t discriminate that much if it doesn’t want to.
So, I immediately did what any girl would do and (1) googled and researched info on crumb rubber fields and (2) called my big brother, who is an assistant athletic director at a Connecticut high school who I knew could talk me off the edge and give me the low down. I got good info from both. Here is some of the info I found:
- Crumb rubber fields are made of as many as 20,000 recycled chopped up tires; the entire tire is used, so that means that there is a variety of chemicals in there. One of the big chemicals is variation of benzene, known to have a link to leukemia. Some of the other chemicals that are known carcinogens are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), butylated hydroxyanisole, zinc, oils, and chemicals used inside and around the tire;
- In warm climates or here on hot days, these fields can emit a burning rubber smell because well, that’s pretty much what’s happening. So players are not only encountering the crumbs themselves used to fill in around the poly grass, but may be deeply breathing in toxic vapors while they are working out;
- Richard Blumenthal issued a warning in 2008 and asked the Consumer Product Safety Committee to remove information on their website inferring that the fields are safe because this was misleading the public as far as proven safety. Yes, maybe it was a political ploy before a run for Senate, but maybe he was right;
- · The potential dangers of the crumb rubber go beyond cancer to asthma, serious infections like MRSA because the germs are festering on plastic, and latex allergies;
- Various studies by government agencies and the manufacturers themselves stick by their reports that there are “no proven health risks”.
My brother explained the practical benefits that I hadn’t thought of; the fields need less maintenance and hold up much better than natural grass in continual play. At schools where many fields are needed at one time for different sports for both practices and games, constant use of a natural field will wear it out and there simply aren’t enough fields to use to let it recover. A worn out field becomes dangerous injury wise among other things. And while the crumb rubber needs maintenance by way of additional fill and some smoothing, it is faster, cheaper and easier that the real stuff. Oddly, when I mentioned using pesticides to keep up grass, he reminded me that pesticides can no longer be used in schools. Go figure.
Putting aside all cynicism about tire manufacturers making a windfall with their spare junk, and just looking at the practical benefits, I get it. But having a kid with cancer, who absolutely loves the sport she plays, I am conflicted and confused. Why would we even chance the health of our kids by having them play on synthetic treated chemical crap? And yet, how can I take away something she has worked hard at, that her dad and I have encouraged, and that she loves? I don’t know the answer. But if you have a kid playing on a crumb rubber field, be educated about it when you make your own choices. At least watch the NBC piece, that has gained some attention and was recently mentioned in a Huff Post Article.
Links to some helpful info are below:
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams:
Attorney General Blumenthal:http://www.ct.gov/ag/cwp/view.asp?Q=421480&A=2795
Environment and Human Health Article:http://www.ehhi.org/reports/turf/health_effects.shtml