Artificial turf was thought to be a great way to recycle old tires, converting them to new playground surfacing products in an attempt to save both space in landfills and try to provide a “safer” place for kids to play. The idea was to protect kids from bone breaks and other potential concrete injuries but artificial turf, it turns out, may actually cause cancer and other health problems – affecting children in particular.
Originally downplaying the risk as a “low level of concern” on their website and in a press release, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came under fire in 2013 from watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and eventually changed its tune, admitting that their 2009 study was too limited in scope to assess the true extent of this danger.
WHAT EXACTLY IS ARTIFICIAL TURF?
As defined by the EPA, “Ground rubber – also called ‘tire crumb’ or ‘crumb rubber’ – is recovered from scrap tires or from the tire retreading process. It is used in road construction and in a number of athletic and recreational applications, including ground cover under playground equipment, running track material, and as a soil additive on sports and playing fields.”
There are 4,500 fields, tracks and playgrounds in the U.S. that utilize the turf, according to the Synthetic Turf Council, the industry’s trade group.
WHY IS ARTIFICIAL TURF DANGEROUS FOR CHILDREN?
Tires contain lead and other harmful chemicals such as arsenic, benzene, and mercury. Because children inadvertently get particles of the turf stuck in their eyes and mouths (even ingesting them) or lodged in cuts and scrapes while playing, scientists believe that children are at greater risk. Also at high risk are kids that play sports, such as soccer goalies who crash into the turf as they dive for the ball.
Regarding their 2009 study, the EPA stated, “Given the very limited nature of this study (i.e., limited number of components monitored, samples sites, and samples taken at each site) and the wide diversity of tire crumb material, it is not possible to extend the results beyond the four study sites or to reach any more comprehensive conclusions without the consideration of additional data.”
SHOULD I LET MY CHILD PLAY ON ARTIFICIAL TURF?
The EPA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) all recommend that children wash their hands frequently after playing on the turf and before eating.
However, the Public Health Toxicologist and Director of Public Health Toxicology for Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI), and former toxicologist for the CDC, Dr. David R. Brown doesn’t think that goes far enough.
In an October 2014 article for soccorwire.com he said, “My basic advice is, don’t do it. I think they [the parents] would have to understand that there is a level of risk that the child is incurring.”
Discussing soccer, he went on to state that if no alternative to playing on artificial turf is available, he recommends wearing a separate pair of shoes that are just for use on the field, showering immediately afterwards, and changing your clothes. “The very young children,” he said, “I’d get them off those fields.”
Bottom line: When it comes to your children, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If your child has been diagnosed with cancer after being exposed to artificial turf, contact Meshbesher & Spence for a consultation with our personal injury attorneys to determine if you will be able to recover damages for your child’s care and suffering.
Curious about what other harmful substances can be found in tires? Visit the EPA’s site for a complete list of the compounds and materials they identified.