Background & Summary
In early 2015, in response to increased public interest in the potential health effects of synthetic turf sports fields with recycled rubber infill, the Synthetic Turf Council began compiling a list of available studies and making them more readily accessible to the public.
Since 1990, STC has identified more than 90 technical studies and reports that have delved into various health and human safety questions relating to the use of recycled rubber as an aftermarket product, including its use as infill in synthetic turf sports fields. These studies have involved chemical engineers, toxicologists, epidemiologists, chemists, biologists and other medical professionals. They have estimated whether toxins are present at any level of concern, whether the human body can access them, and if exposure over time increases risk. The majority of the studies were conducted independently by academic institutions and government agencies.
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STC Catalog of Available Recycled Rubber Research
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Research & Test Data
The primary objectives of the investigation were to: Determine whether the number of cancer diagnoses among the soccer players reported to the project team was higher than would be expected if rates of cancer among these soccer players were similar to rates among all Washington residents of the same ages. Describe individuals reported to the project team in terms of their demographics, factors related to cancer and history of playing soccer and other sports.
Publication date: December 20, 2016
Modification date: January 31, 2017
New research by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) shows it is safe for people to play sports on synthetic turf fields with an infill of rubber granulate. Rubber granulate contains numerous substances which were found to be released from the granulate in very low quantities. This is because the substances are more or less ‘enclosed’ in the granulate, which means that the effect of these substances on human health is virtually negligible.
Gradient, October 2016
The Concern: Amy Griffin, associate head coach for the University of Washington women's soccer team, "has been informally tracking American soccer players with cancer since 2009" (1). She has identified 220 cases to date, 166 of them soccer players. The two most frequent cancer diagnoses are lymphoma and leukemia. The diagnoses date back to 1994, with the ages 5-24 specifically mentioned (2). The concern is that exposure to chemicals in recycled rubber has caused the identified cancer cases.
Laura C. Green, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., June 29, 2015
This letter-report from noted toxicologist, Laura C. Green, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., details the evidence that leads her to conclude that rubber mulch for playgrounds and crumb rubber infill for synthetic turf sports fields “…is neither known nor reasonably expected to cause cancer, and is otherwise safe for use….” Significantly, she further states, “More generally, no type of cancer in adolescents is known to be caused by overexposure to chemicals.”
Shaw Industries Inc., March 11, 2015
"Shaw Industries, Inc. recently retained Dr. Laura C. Green, a noted toxicologist, to review claims in the media that synthetic turf athletic fields that utilize crumb-rubber as an infill material may pose a risk of cancer to those who use them, particularly children and adolescents..."
Synthetic Turf Council, November 25, 2014
This test analysis measures the toxicity of crumb rubber infill against a stringent European toy standard.
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Public Position Statements
February 9, 2017
Raised Bill 6998 - An Act Concerning the Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Municipal and Public School Playgrounds
June 27, 2016
Brussels — ETRA, The European Tyre Recycling Association, has declared that there is a need for all the actors in the artificial turf sector to come together and move to refute allegations about the impact of tyre rubber granulate used in sports fields. In recent years, unfounded claims have been made that recycled tyre rubber has a harmful effect on sports players who come into contacts with the rubber infill – in particular those in goalkeeping roles.
However, despite two decades of research on the subject, funded by industry, the government and public interest groups, there is no empirical research that links tyre rubber to cancer. The USA Environmental Protection Agency lists some 41 independent projects, none of which find any harmful effects of using tyre rubber in sports infill. The Synthetic Turf Association lists another 10 such reports. The 2007 ETRA ‘Artificial Turf Compendium’ cites over fifty studies on the issue.
In addition to a significant number of prior studies in the U.S. and Europe that do not identify any reason for concern around playing on synthetic turf fields with recycled rubber infill, there are three other reasons to be reassured that synthetic turf does not cause cancer.
March 23, 2015
Synthetic turf fields with crumb rubber infill do not represent an elevated health risk, including cancer.
January 20, 2015
"This letter and video clip are being sent to update you regarding the news story that has circulated since last spring regarding potential cancer risks at artificial turf fields. Various media outlets have continued to run this story and a number of local health departments have inquired as to its validity. Since many Connecticut towns have installed or are considering artificial turf fields an elevated cancer risk would be an important consideration. However, this news story is still based upon very preliminary information and does not change CTDPH’s position that outdoor artificial turf fields do not represent an elevated health risk."
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Recent Magazine Articles
Megan Quinn, Scrap Magazine, March/April 2016
What will it take to allay the public's concerns about the safety of crumb rubber infill on synthetic turf fields? On one side of the conflict are more than 70 studies and literature reviews from state health departments, universities, and other independent entities in the United States and in Europe. None of the studies say crumb rubber is a public health or environmental concern. On the other side are environmental groups and residents who worry that various chemicals in tire rubber could cause cancer or other health problems, and they are asking school boards, cities, and states to ban crumb rubber infill. Tire processors and synthetic turf vendors are concerned that this fear has trumped the facts and maligned a product with real environmental benefits.
Paul Steinbach, Athletic Business Magazine, April 2016
As research continues, the synthetic turf and recycling industries come to the defense of an embattled infill. "Nothing is more important than the safety of our children." So opens a video released jointly by the Safe Fields Alliance and the Recycled Rubber Council this past February. The video, titled “The Truth About Crumb Rubber and Artificial Turf,” mentions the words “safe” or “safety” 10 times in seven minutes. It’s the most visible effort yet by turf industry advocates to counter mainstream media reports — what the video terms “scary news stories” — that seem to lend credence to suspicions that crumb rubber infill in synthetic turf sports fields may cause cancer, even as these same reports admit, as NBC Nightly News did Oct. 1 of last year, “No research has linked crumb rubber or shredded rubber to cancer.”
Robert Myer, Editor in Chief, SportsField Management Magazine, April 2016
More research is necessary to answer the question of whether or not certain synthetic fields are safe. This topic is very contentious. Why? There are many reasons. "We can all agree we want our kids active and moving and healthy. But we also have a right to know whether the turf fields our kids are playing on contain harmful chemicals." If not crumb rubber, then what? This article cohesively explains the origins of the debate, the STC's position on the need for further research, and some alternative infills available for use in synthetic turf for those who are more comfortable with the idea of synthetic turf if crumb rubber is not used as the infill.
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Additional Resources on Crumb Rubber
ISRI is a Washington, DC-based trade association representing more than 1,600 for-profit companies – ranging from small, family-owned businesses to large, multi-national corporations -- operating at more than 3,500 facilities in the United States and 34 countries worldwide.
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The Recycled Rubber Council (RRC) has a mission to communicate, advocate, and educate about the safety and beneficial uses of recycled rubber. The organization was created to serve as a resource for those that want unbiased information about recycled rubber and to be a voice for an industry...an industry that provides products that are all around us and make our world a better place. Rubber has been an integral part of our lives for nearly 200 years and without it, the world as we know it would be a dramatically different place.
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