This year’s LandTek FieldTurf convention, held last month at a hotel in Huntington, Long Island, New York, was dedicated to addressing recent worries that the filling material, composed of ground up tires, could eventually expose athletes to life-threatening illness.
The concerns have to do with the fact that the artificial fields are constructed using up to ten tons of ground-up used tires, or crumb rubber, as in-fill. The danger is that since tires typically contain toxic substances which prohibit their disposal in landfills and oceans, it seems reasonable to question whether this material is safe for use on fields where children play. More than 150 school athletic and maintenance officials attended the conference.
Former New York Jet Marty Lyons is director of sales and marketing for LandTek.
Recent studies conducted in various states including New York have demonstrated that there are hazardous substances contained within artificial turf field with detrimental health consequences. Metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead and zinc are just some of the toxins that have been identified.
There is a concern that exposure to these harmful elements will cause immune system damage, endocrine disruption and cancer. There is grave concern that the affects on children will be especially severe and can be dormant for an unknown amount of time. Studies have confirmed that even low level exposure can cause serious health risks. There is a question of whether the carcinogenic components can be released in everyday conditions.
A study conducted by a consumer protection organization known as RAMP concluded that there are many unresolved health concerns that can result from the installation of these synthetic playing fields and public policy would suggest that no more such fields be installed until further research is performed. Inasmuch as athletes inhale air at an augmented rate there is a worry that there is an increased chance that the toxins will be inhaled.
On the other hand, FieldTurf, which represents 60 percent of the North American filling market, states that the product is safe and the release of any dangerous chemical would be minimal. In response to the latter health and environmental concerns, a bill was introduced in the New York State Assembly on October 23rd, 2007, calling for a moratorium on any additional synthetic turf installations pending a review of the potential health and environmental effects. The debate and controversy continues pending future research.
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