Senators ask Obama to initiate federal study of crumb rubber

January 22, 2016  - By
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Two Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee asked President Barack Obama on Jan 21. to initiate a study regarding the potential health risk posed by artificial turf athletic fields and playgrounds made of crumb rubber, according to a news release from the Commerce Committee.

In a letter to the president, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal say the possible correlation between crumb rubber and cancer suggested by recent reports deserves a comprehensive federal-led study.

“Given that millions of children and young athletes play on crumb rubber synthetic surfaces every day, this correlation with cancer cannot be ignored,” the senators wrote in the letter.

The letter cites research from NBC News’ profile on University of Washington soccer coach Amy Griffin, who in October 2014 reported 153 reported cancer cases involving athletes who spent significant periods of time playing on crumb rubber turf. Of those cases, 124 were soccer players.

“We believe that a more comprehensive federal study on this matter, one that draws not only from the public safety expertise of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), but from the public health and environmental expertise of agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency, would more fully inform the public on any potential public health or safety impacts associated with crumb rubber,” the senators’ letter says.

Many other lawmakers and those in the industry have requested further studies on the correlation. In April 2015 California Sen. Jerry Hill proposed a bill that would stop funding for some synthetic fields until it is further studied, and in November 2015 a New Jersey Congressman sent a letter to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry regarding the use of recycled tire crumb rubber in synthetic turf fields, all while the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the EPA have continued to promote synthetic athletic turf as safe.

Below is the senators’ letter to the president. [Click here for PDF]

Dear Mr. President:

We write to request that your administration spearhead a comprehensive study and assessment of the safety of artificial turf surfaces infilled with “crumb rubber.”

Crumb rubber consists of recycled scrap tires grounded into small particles, which are then incorporated into the synthetic turf as infill. These artificial surfaces have been installed in playgrounds and sports fields all across the country. Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that these surfaces may pose serious health risks, including cancer, to individuals who come into frequent contact with them. As such, we believe this issue warrants scrutiny from U.S. government agencies with expertise in public health and consumer safety.

The existing body of knowledge on the safety of crumb rubber is incomplete. Nonetheless, one disturbing report finds that there may be a correlation between crumb rubber and cancer. Specifically, according to University of Washington soccer coach Amy Griffin, and as reported by ESPN, there are now 153 reported cancer cases involving athletes who spent significant periods of time playing on synthetic turf with crumb rubber infill. Of these cases, 124 of the athletes are soccer players, 85 of whom played goalie. Given that millions of children and young athletes play on crumb rubber synthetic surfaces every day, this correlation with cancer cannot be ignored.

Last November, we wrote a letter to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Elliot Kaye urging the Commission to initiate an independent investigation on the safety of crumb rubber turf. According to Chairman Kaye, the CPSC will be working with the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to determine the possible health risks that crumb rubber poses.

This is a laudable effort, and we appreciate the CPSC’s response. However, we believe that a more comprehensive federal study on this matter, one that draws not only from the public safety expertise of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but from the public health and environmental expertise of agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency, would more fully inform the public on any potential public health or safety impacts associated with crumb rubber. Accordingly, we ask that your administration coordinate a comprehensive initiative that effectively utilizes all of the relevant agencies that can provide insight on the health and safety crumb rubber.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.

Sincerely,

Bill Nelson
Ranking Member

Richard Blumenthal
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security

AT Staff

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