Artificial Turf Safety Research Overview

Artificial turf fields are now everywhere in the United States, from high schools to multi-million-dollar athletic complexes, businesses and hotels. With the growing popularity of synthetic turf fields and the environmental and money saving benefits this product is really catching fire.  Until recently there were not a many studies or research on the safety of turf fields….until recently.  The bottom line is that synthetic turf is safe – no research has linked cancer to artificial turf but still many questions and alternative views are present throughout the media today.

Extensive investigations, which included a review of the relevant studies and interviews with scientists and industry professionals, was unable to find any agreement over whether crumb turf had ill effects on young athletes, or even whether the product had been sufficiently tested.

The Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, says that the evidence collected so far by scientists and state and federal agencies proves that artificial turf is safe.

“We’ve got 14 studies on our website that says we can find no negative health effects,” said Dr. Davis Lee, a Turf Council board member. While those studies aren’t “absolutely conclusive,” he added, “There’s certainly a preponderance of evidence to this point that says, in fact, it is safe.”

One of the problems with researching the potential health hazards of crumb rubber fields is the sheer variety of materials used in the product.  Tens of thousands of different tires from different brands may be used in one field. According to the EPA, mercury, lead, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and carcinogens, have been found in tires.

These compunds would raise concerns for consumers and business however the turf manufacturing process ensures that their product is safe.  Through a process called vulcanization the potential corconogenic ingredients become inert. Industry leaders say while they encourage additional research, studies have shown that the substances found in crumb rubber are not at levels high enough to be at risk to people

“There are certainly chemicals in small amounts [in turf] as in many other things,” said Lee, of the Synthetic Turf Council. “You could evaluate most any material out there and you’re going to find at some level, some chemical that might cause concern.”

Additionally the levels as they exist in ground up tires, are very, very low. The EPA has not found adverse health effect as well as the several state organizations have investigated it quite thoroughly. Most reports concluded that the use of outdoor and indoor artificial turf fields is not associated with elevated health risks.