WASHINGTON—NBC News' updated report on alleged health hazards linked to synthetic turf made with crumb rubber from recycled tires drew the predictable range of comment both for and against the product.
However, both sides agreed on one thing: further study, especially from government agencies, is needed to settle the question of the safety of synthetic turf.
As the NBC report acknowledges, a wide range of studies of crumb rubber on athletic fields and playgrounds show no link between the product and any health hazard.
However, those who question the safety of synthetic turf feel the current scientific literature is inadequate, and those who promote the product seek to reinforce the studies that point to the safety of crumb rubber.
“Our industry is supportive of any new studies,” said Terry Leveille, president of TL & Associates in Sacramento, Calif., and legislative representative for the California Tire Dealers Association.
Leveille and the CTDA were instrumental in the defeat last year of a bill that would have created a moratorium on any schools or municipalities installing crumb rubber athletic fields or playgrounds, or allowing the California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling (CalRecycle) to give any grants or rebates to synthetic turf producers or users.
However, the part of the bill the CTDA did support—a study to expand the analysis of potential human health effects of scrap tires used in playground surfacing and synthetic turf—came to fruition with a contract between CalRecycle and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
The contract for the three-year, $2.86 million study was signed in June 2015. Under terms of the pact, CalRecycle will pay OEHHA to perform the study, which will culminate in a report scheduled for release in June 2018.
The two-part NBC Nightly News report, which aired Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, mentions the California study, but asks why federal agencies aren't studying synthetic turf as well.
In the report, McCarthy, administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, declined comment on camera when NBC reporters asked her about synthetic turf. The EPA conducted a 2008 study that found a number of toxic compounds in synthetic turf, but found no evidence that they leached into the soil or water.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission also has studied synthetic turf but found no links between crumb rubber and disease. On Oct. 2, CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye issued a statement citing the California study and promising his agency would do all it could to find the answers about synthetic turf.
“As long as I am chairman, CPSC will continue to work closely with our federal and state partners toward ending the uncertainty surrounding crumb rubber,” he said.
“As the science around chronic exposure to chemicals often does not provide as much clarity as we all wish it would, I cannot guarantee a clear answer will emerge,” he said.