Over 13 million Americans play soccer, making it the country’s third most popular sport. With the rise of soccer’s popularity came an increase in the use of artificial turf fields. Due to wear and tear on natural fields, synthetic turf has become more popular with more than 11,000 synthetic artificial turf fields in use in our schools, parks, and athletic fields. By 2016, an entire generation of soccer players have grown up playing on these artificial turf fields.
The prolonged exposure to the synthetic fields, specifically those that use crumb rubber, has raised significant health concerns. Crumb rubber is used commonly in turf fields with an “infill” system or a layer of tiny granules of rubber. Infill crumb rubber is made from recycled tires and contains many chemicals, such as heavy metals, rubber, and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Exposure to the infill crumb rubber can come through inhalation of airborne chemicals, ingestion of the actual granules, and absorption through the skin.
The chemicals in the infill crumb rubber have been linked to birth defects, neurological problems, and cancer. The connection between crumb rubber and cancer received national attention in 2014 when an NBC investigation featured soccer coach, Amy Griffin, who had been creating a list of young soccer goalies with cancer. In 2009, Griffin began noticing that soccer players, specifically goalies, were getting cancer and she has become convinced that infill crumb rubber is the culprit. Before the NBC news report, Griffin’s list contained 34 names of young soccer players with cancer. After the report, her list grew to 63.
As a result of public outcry, many cities and states are moving away from infill crumb rubber and synthetic turf. In CT, the legislative Committee on Children will hear testimony about a proposed bill that would ban the installation of an new infill crumb rubber synthetic turf after October 1, 2016. The hearing will be on Tuesday, February 16, at 10:00 am in Room 2A at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CT. Residents of Connecticut are welcome to attend to testify in person or to submit testimony via e-mail.