In recent years, artificial turf fields have replaced traditional grass fields in schools, municipality fields, and athletic complexes. At the same time, there have been a wave children and young adults with a history of extended exposure to artificial turf — usually though organized sports — who have been diagnosed with cancer. This has led many doctors, researchers and the government to question whether a link exists between artificial turf and cancer.
The concern is with the metals and chemicals — potentially carcinogenic — found in the rubber infill (“Crumb Rubber”) of the artificial field.
There are more than 11,000 artificial turf fields in use today in the United States. Most of them contain styrene butadiene rubber, or “crumb rubber” — tiny black rubber crumbs made from old car tires. The crumb rubber is poured in between the artificial grass blades to give the field more cushion and minimize traumatic injuries to athletes.
NBC News recently profiled several soccer coach, Amy Grifffin, who was compiled a list of 38 American soccer players — 34 of them goalies — who have been diagnosed with cancer, most often blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia. Soccer players, especially goalies, have constant contact with the artificial turf. The “crumbs” often get into their cuts and scrapes, and into their hair, clothing and mouths.
They also breathe the dust kicked up from the crumb rubber. Studies have found that crumb rubber fields emit gases — especially after becoming hot in the sun — that can be inhaled.
Crumb rubber, which is made from synthetic fibers and scrap tire, is known to contain carcinogens and chemicals such as benzene, carbon black, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic and lead. Although no research has linked cancer to artificial turf, the research has been limited.
Artificial Turn Industry and Consumer Groups Disagree Over Evidence
Not surprisingly, the artificial turf industry claims that the research to date proves artificial turf and crumb rubber is safe. They point to the benefits of artificial turf — including recycling of tires and no need for watering, fertilizer or pesticides. According to industry, these benefits outweigh any risks.
As for the link between artificial turf and cancer, industry groups argue the near impossibility of determining the cause of cancer in young people, especially given that they are exposed to hundreds of carcinogens in their lives. They argue that carcinogens found in crumb rubber are not at levels high enough to cause harm to children or athletes.
Consumer groups argue that artificial turf and crumb rubber has not been sufficiently tested by governmental consumer safety organizations, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) or environmental safety organizations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”).
The attorneys at Passen & Powell have examined the research to date and agree wholeheartedly that more research is necessary. The evidence does not prove artificial turf is safe. None of the studies are long-term, and they rarely involved children. Indeed, few studies have examined the effect of ingesting crumb rubber particles or absorbing them into the body through cuts and scrapes.
Given the nature of injury to these children — life-threatening diagnoses of lymphoma, leukemia and other cancers — the risk is too great to continue exposing them to the hazards of artificial turf without unequivocally answering the question about whether exposure causes cancer.
To discuss a potential case involving serious injury or death, call Passen & Powell at 312-527-4500 for a free consultation or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.