Friday, November 15, 2019
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Lawsuit claims artificial turf is carcinogenic

A parent group is suing the San Diego Unified School District over the installation of artificial turf fields, made with tire crumbs, at an elementary school, Courthouse News reports.

The group Keep Turf Safe says the district didn’t notify parents properly about the installation and didn’t conduct environmental tests required under California law. They’re asking California Superior Court in the February 1 lawsuit to halt the installation of any crumb turf field until the district complies with the California Environmental Quality Act.

Parents say the rubber tire crumbs contain substances that can cause cancer. “The tire crumb poses a risk and contains heavy metals, known carcinogens, and other toxic substances,” the complaint states. “Despite this, [schools are] happy to allow San Diego’s young children to roll on these fields, eat, and drink on these fields (risk ingestion), collect tire crumb pellets, and take home pieces of tire.”

Evidence in the case includes a spreadsheet listing 83 schools parents say are scheduled to get turf fields between 2014 and 2019, but the list doesn’t say what type of artificial turf will be installed at the different schools.

“Evidence readily available illustrates an unusually high incidence of cancer among young soccer goalies across the United States who have played on tire crumb turf,” parents add.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a peer-reviewed report about artificial turf this summer, but scientific literature has been equivocal on the question of the cancer-causing properties of the rubber tire crumbs.

Some molecules may become airborne, opponents of artificial turf say, and if kids eat the rubber—that is, if kids do something with the substance that they’re not supposed to do—it can certainly lead to detrimental health effects.

For the record, the soccer goalie study comes from a research report where players spent years and years on artificial turf fields for professional or semi-professional teams, and students at an elementary school don’t get anywhere near that much exposure.

The black rubber also has a tendency to absorb heat from the Southern California sun and emit fumes and heat readily. The complaint says that 44 students went to the nurse’s office for heat exhaustion on the first day after playing on the tire crumb field.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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