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NBC News report on synthetic turf creates stir

October 17, 2014  - By


A recent report from NBC News has once again placed artificial turf in the crosshairs.

On Oct. 8, NBC News reported 38 soccer players across the United States who have played sports on artificial turf have been diagnosed with cancer.

The report profiles soccer coach Amy Griffin, associate head coach for the University of Washington women’s soccer team, who noticed the connection when visiting an athlete in the hospital who was receiving chemotherapy treatments. Griffin says that of those 38 athletes diagnosed with cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, 34 were soccer goalkeepers.

Griffin pointed to the “little black dots,” or the granular crumb rubber infill material from recycled tires, as the possible cause.

The Synthetic Turf Council (STC) gave a statement in the report, saying that the evidence collected thus far by scientists and state and federal agencies proves artificial turf, and the infill, is safe.

“We’ve got 14 studies on our website that says we can find no negative health effects,” Dr. Davis Lee, an STC board member, says in the report.

After NBC News’ article went viral, numerous reports of cancelled synthetic turf installations have surfaced. Some of those fields include Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Wash., according to The Huffington Post, and Carey Stadium in Ocean City, N.J., according to another NBC News report.

[Update: Construction on a Mt. Lebanon, Penn., $1.05 million artificial turf project began on Oct. 23, but residents’ group Mt. Lebanon Advocates for Child Health has scheduled a protest at 11 a.m. on Oct. 26 in hopes to bring the project to a halt until more research is done, says]

This isn’t the only concern with synthetic turf athletic fields in the media. The recent controversy between FIFA and women’s 2015 World Cup players has been an ongoing battle.

FIFA announced the Women’s World Cup’s nine stadiums will feature synthetic turf surfaces. The women athletes have expressed concerns over safety, declaring that unlike natural grass, synthetic turf leads to injuries and changes the game altogether.

Abby Wambach, along with a growing number of other professional players, have signed a petition requesting FIFA give an equal opportunity for them to play on natural grass – like the men received when they played at the 2014 World Cup Brazil.

The players’ lawyers sent letters to FIFA and Canadian organizers saying legal action will be taken if nothing is done, according to an article The New York Times published in August.

According to a Los Angeles Times article published Oct. 28, FIFA allegedly threatened players who supported World Cup lawsuit, stating “attorneys for more than 60 women soccer players charged that federations in Mexico and Costa Rica were asked to punish players unless they removed their names from a lawsuit against FIFA […] and the Canadian Soccer Assn.”

Cost savings, maintenance and upkeep of artificial turf have also recently been questioned in a Forbes article.

Although these concerns have made their splash in the media, NBC News’ “extensive investigation” concluded with this: They could not conclude whether crumb turf causes any harm in athletes, and no research has linked cancer to possible carcinogens within artificial turf.

View NBC News’ video supplement below.

Illustration: / tungphoto / twobee

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About the Author:

Harms is the Digital Media Content Producer for North Coast Media. She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Creative Writing Specialization from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Harms specifically creates content for NCM’s Golfdom, GPS World, Geospatial Solutions and Athletic Turf digital properties including eNewsletters, social media and websites. She can be reached at

3 Comments on "NBC News report on synthetic turf creates stir"

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  1. Susan Barker says:

    What other chemicals are they using on these synthetic turf fields? Any fungicides? Perhaps that might be a common link.