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    December 2014

    Artificial Turf: Addressing Concerns of Possible Cancer Link

    Recent headlines about a potential link between artificial turf fields and cancer have caused widespread concern among educational institutions. The base for artificial turf, composed of "crumb rubber" made from recycled tires, is often ingested and inhaled by players. Recent news stories claim these pellets may be causing cancer in young athletes, particularly soccer goalies.

    Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) backtracked on their assurances that the material was safe. The agencies called their studies “limited” and told NBC Newsthat “more testing needs to be done.” Over the past two decades, more than 60 studies and reports have examined turf’s potential harms, but no study has definitively determined that it causes cancer. Given the inconclusive science on the safety of artificial turf, UE recommends considering the following risk management actions.

    • Consider alternatives to artificial turf. Instead of a crumb rubber turf field, some institutions are opting for turf such as:
      • Nike Grind. Ground up tennis shoe soles provided by the Nike Corp.
      • Corkonut. Coconut fiber and cork infill, which has been adopted by the New York City Parks and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
    • Encourage athletes to wash and change shoes and clothing promptly after play on turf. This can reduce ingestion of tire crumbs.
    • Limit player time on crumb rubber turf.East High School in Nevadaminimizes its players’ time on the crumb rubber fields by using grass fields for practices and turf fields for games. Less time on the field may decrease exposure to crumb rubber’s potentially harmful effects.
    • Educate students and parents. If your institution uses crumb rubber turf fields, consider providing documentation about the issue and holding a forum to discuss your plans, efforts, and procedures to mitigate potential risks. Providing information and airing concerns may help ease fears. For example, the town of Medway, Mass. hosted a public forum to educate parents on crumb rubber infill, which will be used on two new artificial turf fields at the local high school.
    • Use assumption of risk forms. Informing parents and students about the risks of athletic participation, and using assumption of risk forms to document those risks, is a best practice. All students and parents—if students are minors—should sign an assumption of risk form. See the sample form below.

    FC Frederick Youth Soccer Club’s Assumption of Risk Form
    Sole Revolution with Nike Grind Turf Infill Alternative FAQ
    Corkonut Alternative Infill
    A Scoping-Level Field Monitoring Study of Synthetic Turf Fields and Playgrounds, EPA
    CPSC Staff Analysis and Assessment of Synthetic Turf “Grass Blades”

    By Hoda Hussein, Associate Risk Management Consultant


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