Is Artificial Turf Safe To Have Kids Play On?

As you know, California is in a drought.  During this drought a lot of people are opting for artificial turfs to keep the watering low.

Every day, we let our kids play on these turfs and a lot of people don’t realize that it could be a health hazard.

What is being debated about artificial turf are particles in the turf called butadiene rubber or for slang… “crumb rubber.”  These particles are made synthetically from the rubber from old tires.

Dust will raise above the fields and smell like, old tires.   Now that these fields are becoming more prominent for athletics,  a number of people are questioning the safety of fields made of artificial turf.  Especially when it comes to soccer goalies.

There is not a lot of research on it yet but it is worth exploring.

In 2009, Amy Griffin, an associate head soccer coach at the University of Washington, was visiting to women goalies who were young but diagnosed with  non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After speaking with one of the nurses, she said “Don’t tell me you guys are goalkeepers. You’re the fourth goalkeeper I’ve hooked up this week.”

Later, one of the women at the hospital while undergoing chemotherapy said that she had a feeling the cancer was associated with what she said were “black dots.”

Artificial turf fields are now everywhere in the United States, from high schools to professional soccer fields and NFL stadiums.  Anyone who has played on these turfs will testify that the tiny black rubber crumbs (old tires), get everywhere.  Inside a uniform, in hair, cleats and sometimes swallowed.

Goalkeepers, are constantly in contact with the turf.  During practices and games, they make hundreds of dives, and each time, a black cloud of tire pellets into the air.  These particles can get into cuts, scrapes and into their mouths.  Coach Griffin wondered if those crumbs which are now known to contain carcinogens and chemicals – were making players sick.

She stated “I’ve coached for 26, 27 years.”  “My first 15 years, I never heard anything about this. All of a sudden it seems to be a stream of kids.” Since that hospital visit, Griffin has compiled a list of 38 American soccer players who have been diagnosed with cancer.   34 of them are goalies.  Nationwide, blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia dominate the list.

While more testing is needed, New York City has stopped installing crumb rubber fields in its parks in 2008 and the Los Angeles Unified School District did the same in 2009. In Maryland, the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition supports legislation to require warning signs at artificial turf fields and opposes a bill to use state funds to construct artificial turf fields.

Griffin still continues to do her own research on the topic and that she sends crumbs from each field her team plays on to a lab for testing.

“I’m looking for answers, because I’m not smart enough to come up with them on my own,” Griffin said. “I would love someone to say, ‘We’ve done some tests and we’ve covered all of our bases — and, yes, it’s safe.’ That would be awesome. I would love to be proved wrong.”

The jury is still out on this one but to be safe, play on a natural playing field just to be safe