In recent months, national media and a growing number of critics have raised concerns that crumb rubber used in synthetic turf contains carcinogens and other harmful substances and is potentially dangerous to children and other users. “Crumb rubber” is the term used to refer to the small bits of rubber that provide infill for certain types of synthetic turf that is made from recycled tires. The use of this material is quite common.
Many local playgrounds and playing fields have this material in place today and a large number of universities and even the NFL and FIFA have installed crumb rubber football, soccer, baseball, field hockey, and other fields. These synthetic turf fields provide significant advantages, such as all-weather use and reduced maintenance.
The tiny bits of rubber are believed to contain a wide variety of chemicals, including heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), because tires themselves are made from complex petroleum products. Some studies claim that a small number of the chemicals found in crumb rubber pellets are known or probable human carcinogens and others have well-known potentially toxic effects at sufficient doses, e.g., mercury, lead, benzene, PAHs and arsenic.
Current information from a number of crumb rubber studies does not show an elevated health risk from playing on fields with crumb rubber. However, these studies do not comprehensively address new questions and concerns about children’s health risks from exposure to crumb rubber. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies are working with the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment for a comprehensive evaluation to determine the safety of crumb rubber.
The national media attention has generated additional investigations. Until these questions and concerns are fully addressed, the sports teams and local governments who already have these fields installed will continue to face growing pressure over alleged health effects. If you have any questions or need more information, contact Will Sutton, a lawyer in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at William.Sutton@beasleyallen.com.
Source: Law 360
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