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Is Artificial Turf Giving Children Cancer?

Thursday, February 18, 2016 18:10
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Artificial turf


Seattle soccer coach Amy Griffin was puzzled by the sudden rise in young girls who played soccer coming down with cancer, usually blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia. “I’ve coached for 26, 27 years,” claimed Amy. “My first 15 years, I never heard anything about this. All of a sudden it seems to be a stream of kids.”

These cancer victims were all in their teens when stricken. Whatever other possible various carcinogenic intrusions and poor nutritional diets had to do with their early onset cancers, there was one constant: artificial turf playing fields.

After discovering a few soccer-playing cancer victims in Seattle, Amy scoured the country and discovered 38 cases of young teens who were soccer players, 34 of them goalies, that had been stricken with cancer. Her list has been growing, with parents emailing her about their soccer-cancer kids. But why more goalies than others?

Well, that they eat more dirt diving for balls is a starter. But on artificial turf fields, they’re eating tiny pellets of rubber from crushed vehicle tires instead of dirt.

These pellets ware placed as a layer in the chemically produced grass blades to cushion falls after complaints of artificial turf’s hardness. Those pellets get into their mouths, their hair and their clothing.

So where’s the cancer coming from?

Those little rubber pellets have been analyzed for carcinogens, and some measurements have been taken on the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that off-gas from the pellets when artificial turf fields get hot. These fields generally run at temperatures 15 degrees hotter than ambient air.

This increases the off-gassing of VOCs such as benzene, methylene chloride and various polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

The pellets themselves contain mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead. All the trade groups associated with the artificial turf industry, such as the Synthetic Turf Council, maintain that there are no problems or carcinogenic connections to be concerned about, and of course they have tests to prove it.

But here’s one dissenting voice, Dr. Joel Forman, associate professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital:

“None of [the studies] are long term, they rarely involve very young children and they only look for concentrations of chemicals and compare it to some sort of standard for what’s considered acceptable,” said Dr. Forman.

“That doesn’t really take into account subclinical effects, long-term effects, the developing brain and developing kids. … [E]ven… chronic lower exposures” could lead to inconspicuous neurodevelopmental problems in children. “Those are always suspect,” he added.

The usual standards of laboratory analysis are lower when the profiting industry funds those reports. But few challenge them even if they have the power. The EPA refuses proper long-term testing and calls it a state- or local-level issue.

Artificial vs. real turf

In 2008, the NFL conducted a survey among players regarding their thoughts on artificial turf. Almost all of them agreed, 84% in one category and 92% in the other two categories, respectively, that they endured more injuries and post-game soreness, and that playing on artificial turf was shortening their careers.

The artificial grass industry has used the carbon card. They claim that motorized lawn mowers create more carbon. But they ignore how large patches of real grass sucks up more CO2 than those mowers can put out.

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