Artificial Turf on Playgrounds Being Investigated After Cancer Cluster Found

soccer fieldThe safety of artificial turf found on most playgrounds and playing fields all over the country is being questioned after an investigation revealed a list of 200 young people with cancer who played on the surface. The crumb rubber turf may be putting our kids' lives at risk, and the Environmental Protection Agency is getting more involved.

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While watching the news last night, I learned that there was a growing list of athletes with lymphoma who played on crumb rubber surfaces -- at last count 200, with 158 of them being soccer players (101 of those are goalkeepers). The rest are football, lacrosse, baseball, softball, and field hockey players. All played on crumb rubber, a surface made of recycled rubber tires from cars and trucks and deemed to be safe. This crumb rubber is also found in public playgrounds and on school grounds as well. This waves red flags for parents everywhere.  

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After an ESPN report bringing this cancer cluster in young athletes to light late last year and several investigative reports from various news outlets, the EPA has decided to take another look at the material to see if exposure can lead to cancer. Thank goodness. The concern by many close to the previous investigations is that past studies haven't been thorough enough, and perhaps it's in the breathing in or being exposed to crumb rubber in cuts or through the eyes that could cause cancer. Maybe the fields that have a lot of wear and tear present the most danger -- I can't help but think of the damage to any ground surface made by soccer cleats. The thing is that we don't know for sure -- but what we do know is that too many young people are getting this type of cancer and something doesn't seem right.

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We need answers because crumb rubber is everywhere our kids are. Thankfully even the Synthetic Turf Council supports further research, though it maintains that crumb rubber is safe. The EPA investigation isn't due to conclude until the end of the year. I also can't help but wonder what was so wrong with real grass that we couldn't just leave nature alone?

 

Image via iStock.com/Bigandt_Photography

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