Amid conflicting research questioning whether artificial turf exposes athletes to harmful carcinogens, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to conduct an independent study verifying the safety of artificial turf fields.
The fields are often padded with roughly 40,000 shredded tires, each of which contain as many as 20 known carcinogens, a Yale study found. Schools and towns typically install turf fields because they are a low-maintenance, low-cost alternative to grass.
“They may be cheaper in the short run,” said Blumenthal. “But the question is, what are the hidden health costs?”
Health experts disagree on those potential health costs. Some researchers, like Nancy Alderman, president of the non-profit group Environmental Human Health, Inc., say the fields are too dangerous to play on. Her study found 30 percent of each waste tire contains carbon black, a known carcinogen.
In our initial Troubleshooters investigation, Alderman also pointed to an anecdotal list of athletes who, after years of playing on turf fields, developed cancer.
That list has since grown to almost 200 athletes, including 63 soccer goalkeepers.
“They are the most heavily exposed,” Alderman said. “[That] is why we see the most cancers in the soccer goalies.”
Meanwhile, in a study conducted in 2010, the State Department of Public Health found the fields are safe. In February 2015, state toxicologist Gary Ginsberg explained the study’s methodology.
“We looked at all the carcinogens in these fields from an inhalation perspective and we don’t see an increased cancer risk,” said Ginsberg. “We specifically looked for that.”
Alderman calls the state’s study very limited, criticizing its decision to test players on one turf field for one hour on one day.
According to Ginsberg, the department used algorithms to match a more realistic scenario.
Blumenthal said he won’t jump to conclusions until agencies like the CPSC speak up.
“It’s no knock on the state to say that this agency, which has responsibility to protect the nation’s consumers, ought to do an independent study that can’t be challenged on special interest grounds,” said Blumenthal.
He is not alone. On October 26, Congress called on the Environmental Protection Agency to also conduct an unbiased study.