In response to increasing pressure from consumer safety advocates and two U.S. Senators, the federal government has announced a plan to release a comprehensive study examining the health effects of exposure to tire crumb rubber, which is used as cushion on artificial athletic fields throughout the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will seek to fill important data and knowledge gaps left in existing studies, characterize constituents of recycled crumb rubber used on fields, and determine the toxicity level it poses to children and athletes.
Current CPSC Chair Elliot Kaye recently stepped back from the agency’s previous position that crumb rubber posed no significant health risk. Since his statement, increased scrutiny has been aimed at federal agencies to take a position on the issue because the studies completed to date have been inconclusive. The plan will comprehensively examine the issue and report preliminary findings at the end of 2016. Unlike previous studies that were limited in scope, the Action Plan will to do the following:
• Test different types of crumb rubber to obtain an understanding of all chemicals contained therein and evaluate the health risks associated with exposure to those chemicals.
• Determine the rate of absorption into the body and evaluate the cancer and non-cancer toxicity of key crumb rubber constituents.
• Examine various exposure scenarios (absorption via cut, inhalation, or accidental ingestion) to assess the nature, duration, and frequency of exposure.
• Determine how exposure to different playing fields affects health.
This study, along with one scheduled to be completed in June 2018 by a state agency in California, should be adequate reason for the federal government to take a definitive position on the topic. Commensurate with the rise in the use of crumb rubber playing fields, is an increase in the number of athletes, especially goalkeepers, being diagnosed with different forms of cancer. The federal government owes it to the athletes and to our children who visit playgrounds with these substances to know whether they are safe. Hopefully, this study will motivate both the government and the manufacturers to take the steps necessary to remedy the existing problems.
Sources: EPA and NBC News
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