When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a status report on December 30 about its ongoing efforts to evaluate the safety of recycled crumb rubber used in athletic fields and playgrounds — stating that more research needed to be done, enough was enough as far as the makers of synthetic turf were concerned.
On the heels of that announcement, the Safe Fields Alliance (SFA), “a coalition dedicated to educating stakeholders around the safety of synthetic turf fields using recycled rubber,” and the Synthetic Turf Council (STC), “a non-profit trade association dedicated to serving as a resource for trustworthy information about synthetic turf,” rushed forward with its own statement:
“Playing sports on synthetic turf fields with rubber granulate is safe.”
That conclusion is at odds with the report of the EPA, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which are also part of the joint initiative.
“A major question that remains unanswered is whether exposure to the myriad of potential toxins found in recycled tires may unduly expose children playing on the fields and hence negatively impact children’s health,” according to experts at The Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center. “There is a potential for these toxins to be inhaled, absorbed through the skin and even ingested. These exposures do not remain on the field alone. Children then track the rubber pellets found in the surface into their homes where young children may also be exposed. More recently, lead, a toxin with well-studied health concerns, was found in the plastic, green blades of fake grass that top the fields.”
The above statement may be seven years old. But little has changed.
“Studies to date have not shown an elevated health risk from playing on fields with tire crumb rubber, but these studies have limitations and do not comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks from exposure,” according to the EPA report, which includes the final appraisal of peer-reviewed literature and data gaps analysis report, covering some 90 references.
More results are expected before the end of 2017.
A CPSC playground study is also ongoing. That is not soon enough, according to the turf makers.
“We understand that last Friday’s announcement marks incremental progress by the EPA on its Federal Research Action Plan,” they said. “However, we cannot overstate the pressing need for the Agency to share clear and concise findings as soon as possible in 2017 in order to provide answers and eliminate uncertainty for parents and policymakers.”
Further, “after nearly a year of study, the cloud of uncertainty is hurting businesses as well as jobs. The science is evident, and it is time for the EPA and other regulatory agencies to bring clarity to the situation.”
Until that clarity arrives, The Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center recommends that “citizens and school boards should question the wisdom of installing synthetic turf until a credible independent study has been conducted and published.”