Stuart Shalat, Good Sports, March 6, 2017


From concerns about concussions to cancer, parents have become alarmed by media reports of increased injuries and illnesses.

And there is the further question of who is responsible for assuring the safety of these fields—the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, the Consumer Product Safety Commission?

Modern tires are a mixture of natural and synthetic rubber, carbon black–a material made from petroleum–and somewhere between four and 10 gallons of petroleum products. They also contain metals, including cadmium, lead (which is neurotoxic), and zinc.

Some of the chemicals in tires, such as dibenzopyrenes, are known carcinogens.

Also, artificial turf is often treated with biocides, as artificial has been associated with increased risk of infections from Multidrug-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). More commonly referred to as flesh-eating bacteria, MRSA can occur after skin is scraped or cut, which can occur from sliding on artificial turf.

Biocides, however, may have toxic effects of their own. And they may also contribute to increased resistance of bacteria and to the efficacy of these agents.

Fields with artificial turf tend to get far hotter than grass fields. Field surface temperaturescan reach as high as 200 degrees Fahrenheit. At these temperatures, even with athletic shoes on, children can get burned feet. It is rare, however, even on a very hot day, that natural grass exceeds half of that temperature (100 degrees Fahrenheit).

While the turf industry says it’s safe, we know that tires contain established carcinogens. If we considered only what tires are made of, we would think they should be classified as hazardous waste, though currently EPA classifies tires as municipal waste.

The EPA has been conducting research into the question of toxicity of crumb rubber, but the jury is still out.

There is little question in the mind of many scientists that crumb rubber should not be a first choice material for children to play on. Parents should be able to just enjoy watching their children playing sports and not worry that they are being put unnecessarily at risk.