WASHINGTON—Reacting to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's status report on its study of the possible health and environmental effects of crumb rubber athletic turf, two major organizations representing the synthetic turf industry urged the agency to complete its research as soon as possible in the new year.
"We cannot overstate the pressing need for the agency to share clear and concise findings as soon as possible in 2017 in order to provide answers and eliminate uncertainty for parents and policymakers," the Safe Fields Alliance and the Synthetic Turf Council said in a joint statement.
On Dec. 30, the EPA issued its status report, 10 months after it agreed to collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Consumer Product Safety Commission on a Federal Research Action Plan on synthetic turf.
"The purpose of the FRAP is to study key questions concerning the potential for human exposure resulting from the use of tire crumb rubber in playing fields and playgrounds," the EPA said in the executive summary of its status report.
"This kind of information is important for any follow-up evaluation of risk that might be performed."
The EPA said the work already performed under the FRAP includes:
A review of tire and tire crumb rubber manufacturing processes;
A final peer-reviewed analysis of the literature on crumb rubber turf and gaps in knowledge;
Tire crumb rubber characterization and exposure characterization; and
A review of the use of recycled rubber tires on playgrounds.
In 2017, ongoing research under the FRAP will include analysis of tire crumb samples collected from fields and recycling facilities, as well as the exposure characterization component of the study, the EPA said. Parts of the exposure study may be conducted during the hotter months of 2017, it said.
Results of synthetic turf fields research will be available later in 2017, the agency said.
The Safe Fields Alliance and the Synthetic Turf Council said they feel assured that the results of the study will show no connection between crumb rubber and disease.
"Based on the more than 90 scientific studies that have already looked into the safety of synthetic turf fields and other surfaces with recycled rubber infill, we believe the answers are already out there," they said.
The organizations noted a December 2016 statement from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment that playing sports on crumb rubber synthetic turf is safe. The institute had sampled more than 100 synthetic turf fields in reaching this conclusion, they said.
"While we agree that the EPA should not sacrifice thoroughness for expediency, after nearly a year of study, the cloud of uncertainty is hurting businesses as well as jobs," they said. "The science is evident, and it is time for the EPA and other regulatory agencies to bring clarity to the situation."