Suspicions as to the safety or otherwise of artificial turf are nothing new. Packed with bits of old tires – formally referred to as ‘rubber crumb’ – the artificial turf used to line playgrounds and kids’ playing fields has been the subject of debate for decades. Now however, a three-strong army of leading public health organisations has set about the job of conclusively investigating the green stuff once and for all.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has teamed up with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency, for a study focusing on the use of recycled tires in artificial turf, which may contain dangerous chemicals. Specifically, the use of rubber ‘tire crumb’ has led some experts to believe that prolonged exposure to playing fields and playgrounds could affect the individual’s cancer risk.
“I am very pleased that we are joining forces to investigate crumb rubber, as millions of children are exposed to it on playground surfaces and as infill on playing fields,” wrote CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye in a statement announcing the study.
Prior studies have to date not brought about any conclusive findings or direct links between the use of “tire crumb” in artificial turf and a potential threat to health. However, the EPS strongly believes that the matter has not been studied thoroughly enough to comprehensively approve public safety.
Ongoing development and improvements have enabled manufacturers to produce hard-wearing and longer-lasting artificial playing fields and playgrounds for a fraction of the costs of maintaining standard grass. The use of tire crumb in artificial turf has long been a point of concern and contention for many, though research into its safety as a primary component in artificial turf has been lacking for the most part.
U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Richard Blumenthal issued the call in February for more intensive research to be carried out in the interests of wider public health. A study carried out at the University of Washington was cited by the senators, which suggested a possible link between 153 cases of cancer and prolonged exposure to artificial turf containing tire crumb.
“Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that these surfaces may pose serious health risks, including cancer, to individuals who come into frequent contact with them,” the senators wrote.