Hundreds of thousands of kids play on artificial turf fields, and synthetic floored playgrounds. Many more children actively play team sports on synthetic fields many of which contain crumb rubber infill. Many concerned parents have spoken up and demanded that scientific and governmental agencies investigate the safety of crumb rubber synthetic turf fields for recreational and sports play use. The last thing we need to is to expose our youth and upcoming generation of athletes and active kids to carcinogenic materials that could potential pose human health issues and complications. In response we looked into some studies that address these health concerns head on.
Two studies, one in California and one at Rutgers University did evaluate the cancer risk if children ingested a mouthable chunk of playground rubber (10 gram), using laboratory extraction methods to estimate the amount of chemicals that might become available in the stomach and absorbed into the body.
Both studies found very low cancer risk from this scenario (Cal OEHHA 2007; Pavilonis et al. 2014) and finds no scientific support for a finding of elevated cancer risk from inhalation or ingestion of chemicals derived from recycled tires used on artificial turf fields.
The US EPA has a similar position: “At this point, EPA does not believe that the field monitoring data collected provides evidence of an elevated health risk resulting from the use of recycled tire crumb in playgrounds or in synthetic turf athletic fields.” In summary, federal and state authorities have taken seriously the concerns that artificial turf fields may present a health risk due to contaminants in recycled rubber. The best way to investigate these concerns is via an exposure investigation. For more on this study click the following link: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/tires/health.html.
Studies conducted elsewhere have shown a very low exposure potential (however these studies did not take into account the ingestion of crumb rubber however), less than from typical outdoor sources of air pollution. Thus, the CT DPH position expressed in 2011 at the conclusion of the Connecticut study, that outdoor artificial turf fields do not represent an elevated health risk, remains unchanged.