NYC crumb rubber fact sheet ignores warnings.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issues fact sheet acknowledging the presence of PAHs, VOCs, MRSA, and Heavy Metals in Crumb Rubber, but ignores warnings from scientific studies.

Despite the study from the UMDNJ (University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – School of Public Health) that issued scientific findings clearly showing the ingestion of lead from crumb rubber – it appears that NYC Health Dept. officials are willing to gamble with the health effects of proven dangerous crumb rubber infill’s.

In an excerpt from the recently released study questioning the health hazards of synthetic turf fields that utilize crumb rubber for infill, the city health department has somehow justified the continued use of these materials while clearly stating that some problems exist and admittedly placing the population in danger of effects from these carcinogenic field components.

Study and Fact Sheet Says Dangers – OK

Contradicting the recent study released from the UMDNJ, the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene has released a fact sheet that details the use of synthetic turf as a viable surface medium. As a result of the study, undertaken to answer questions surrounding the problems of the City’s often overused sports and activity venues, the fact sheet shows that the City’s health Department officials are apparently willing to accept levels of the most dangerous carcinogens present in traditional synthetic and artificial turf fields, while ignoring the availability of alternative infill systems.

MRSA is NO Issue in New York?

One of the most incessant infectious diseases that anyone can contract from a synthetic turf field is MRSA. However, In responding to a question about MRSA staph infections, the NYC answer was: Bacterial infections, such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), have not been shown to be caused by synthetic turf fields. This conclusion from NYC Health Department release are in direct conflict with many studies and specifically, with the following experiences of one Marci Calantonio (the mother of a boy who contacted MRSA from a crumb rubber infilled synthetic turf field (reference http://www.gazette.net/stories/102407/montnew62421_32372.shtml )) and the results at Morgan State Football Program, Baltimore Md (where the football coach was finally able to pinpoint exactly where the MRSA came from (reference http://wjz.com/sports/staph.mrsa.infection.2.797936.html)).

Alternate Safe Solutions Ignored

As an alternative to all forms of crumb rubber and the multiple health effects that can come from crumb rubber infills, TargaPro offers an anti-microbial infill that contains no rubber (hence no heavy metals such as lead or zinc and no PAHs or VOCs) and eliminates the possibility that a synthetic turf field could harbor infectious disease such as MRSA and other Staph bacteria. It is beyond comprehension that a competitively priced alternative such as Organite™ is on the market and that NYC Health Officials would not even acknowledge its presence after being made aware of the availability, property, effects, and testing results of such a safe alternative solution.

Excerpt Justifies Use With Effects on “Few”

The excerpt below shows some of the Q&A style parts of the fact sheet issued as an encapsulation of the issues that the study addressed. While seemingly informative, the results show an attempt by the NYC Health Department officials to make sure there is no problem by saying so, not by proving so, and without so much as a single acknowledgment of either their own or other municipalities’ well publicized health problems with synthetic turf infills.

If you contrast the selected Q&A fact sheet segments listed below with the statements in our previous blog posts from Congresswoman Rosa Delauro and The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey it will become fairly obvious that NYC is trying valiantly to justify the continued use of this dangerous infill material.

Who Benefits?

And, in light of this attempt at justification we have to ask, especially in the light of Organite™ as a viable alternative that protects the health and welfare of kids and athletes alike, who is responsible for this blatant oversight and who profits (and who suffers) from this misguided choice?

An Excerpt from the NYC Dept. of Health Fact Sheet

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene



Environ. & Occup. Disease Epi.

Fact Sheet on Crumb Rubber Used in Synthetic Turf

Synthetic turf fields using crumb rubber have been installed in many athletic and playing fields throughout New York City, the United States and the world. This fact sheet provides information on questions often asked about the rubber used in the synthetic turf fields.

Q: What are synthetic turf fields made of?
A: A: The NYC Parks Department uses different kinds of synthetic turf depending on how and where it will be used. Most of the synthetic turf fields contain crumb rubber infill along with padding and drainage systems. Other synthetic fields are made of carpet-style materials and do not use crumb rubber. The carpet-style fields are used primarily in the conversion of asphalt fields to synthetic fields.

Crumb rubber fields are made of the following materials:

  • A bottom layer composed of plastic sheeting.
  • Middle layers composed of crushed stones with plastic tubing for drainage and rubber padding for shock absorbance
  • A top layer composed of plastic mesh with soft, plastic strands that resemble blades of grass
  • Crumb rubber infill, made from recycled tires, is added to the top layer to provide extra padding and keep the grass upright. Sand is sometimes mixed with the crumb rubber.

Currently, about 13% of the Parks Department’s 952 playing fields are synthetic turf (with 70% grass and 17% asphalt).

Q: What chemicals can be found in the synthetic turf crumb rubber?
A: The crumb rubber used in synthetic turf is mainly composed of recycled tires, which contain man-made and natural rubber. Very small amounts of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have been found in the crumb rubber. Crumb rubber can also contain small amounts of heavy metals such as zinc and iron.

Q: Can people be exposed to the chemicals found in crumb rubber?
A: Although the potential for significant exposure to the chemicals in crumb rubber is very low, there are three possible ways for people to have contact with these chemicals on artificial turf fields:

  • Accidentally ingesting small amounts of crumb rubber by putting fingers in the mouth or not washing hands before eating after playing on the fields
  • Breathing in dust and vapors while playing on the fields. Crumb rubber may become dust as it wears and the rubber may give off some vapors.
  • Direct skin contact with the crumb rubber.

Q: Are any health effects associated with these chemicals?
A: Several scientific research studies carried out in the United States and Europe have assessed potential exposures and health risks for people using turf fields containing crumb rubber. According to the Health Department’s review of these research findings, health effects are unlikely from exposure to the levels of chemicals found in synthetic turf. At much higher levels, these chemicals can cause serious health effects. In laboratory studies, PAHs have caused organ damage and cancer in animals. Some PAHs may also pose a cancer risk for people exposed to high levels for long periods. VOCs are a mixture of chemicals that can cause eye, nose, throat and skin irritation. At high levels, some VOCs can also cause organ damage.

Q: Are people who play on synthetic turf fields at risk of bacterial infections?
A: Bacterial infections, such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), have not been shown to be caused by synthetic turf fields. Bacterial infections among athletes are due mainly to physical contact and sharing contaminated towels or sports equipment. Coaches and players should be aware of the potential for MRSA transmission and infection among athletes. All skin cuts or abrasions should be washed with soap and water and covered immediately. School athletic departments and sports leagues, should use good hygienic practices and prohibit the sharing of towels and equipment that rubs against bare skin.

Q: Should people continue to use synthetic turf fields with crumb rubber?
A:
Yes. Regular physical activity is one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle. Synthetic turf fields allow access to open spaces for sports and physical activities. After any outdoor activity, people should wash their hands before eating or drinking. On very hot days, users should limit activities, take rest breaks and drink water.

The Q&A sheet is available at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/eode/eode-turf.shtml

The full document is available at: http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/outdoors/synthetic_turf/crumb-rubber_infilled/fact_sheet.htm

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A post inclusive of an article from the San Francisco Chronicle delineating issues surrounding recent lawsuits filed in California against Synthetic Turf companies over “lead in the turf” issues.
It seems as though there is a rising tide of concern over the long held suspicions that there are problems (with both the turf fibers and particularly with the infill) of the synthetic turf fields being installed almost everywhere today.  The question is … are these latest lawsuits filed by the State of California just scratching the surface?

Fiber manufacturers in the United States can (or should be able) to show the yarns (fibers) they are using are below the EPA standards for lead levels … but manufacturers outside the US are not bound by our US standards and the companies importing synthetic fibers from abroad must be held accountable for showing their products meet the EPA standards.
Surely then, it does behoove us to continue to test for lead levels in fields manufactured by companies who built systems with fibers imported from abroad …  and today those companies need to provide proof that the fibers they are currently using meet the EPA standards.  Note that most of the turf fibers being produced today in the US contain lead levels far below the EPA acceptable standards.
Since the newer turfs do not have this fiber problem it seems apparent to us that the real focus should be addressing the crumb rubber infill and urethane backed turf recycling problems. Will the real health problems — not just lead in the fibers of mostly older fields — eventually be unearthed?
Where is the testing for problems such as bio-related infections being hosted by the turf, off-gassing of PAHs and dust particulates from crumb rubber and silica sand infills?  And what about the environmental impacts from carcinogen laden rainwater runoff, disposal of all forms of crumb rubber infill’s and urethane backed turf products that must be treated as hazardous waste with the attendant costs associated with such disposals? When will someone get around to addressing these issues in the fields that are currently installed?
You do realize of course that there is a solution to the lead in the fibers problem.  TargaPro provides an Environmentally Safe Synthetic Turf Field product using turf from Challenger Industries (manufactured with Bonar Yarns) and infilled with an anti-microbial infill (Organite) that addresses all the issues currently under study.  No lead in the fibers — No more Crumb Rubber infill – No urethane backing – all resulting in an environmentally safe and 100% recyclable product.
For more information and details of the solution to these problems – visit our website today!!

Suits filed over lead in artificial turf
Jane Kay, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
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Six artificial-turf companies are breaking state law by not warning the public of exposure to dangerous amounts of lead from the fake green grass, according to two separate lawsuits filed Tuesday by the California attorney general and an environmental group.
The suits, designed to stop the sale of any new turf manufactured with lead, say the toxic metal gets on the hands and bodies of children and adults who play on synthetic grass found at athletic fields, public schools, parks, day care centers and residences.

Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, requires warning of exposure to an unsafe level of a chemical that can cause cancer or birth defects. Lead is a carcinogen and can cause neurological damage, says the lawsuit filed in Alameda Superior Court.  “The goal is to get the lead out of the California pipeline so it’s not being sold in the state,” said Dennis Ragen, the deputy attorney general handling the case for the state. The companies have already expressed a willingness to make turf without lead, Ragen said.
The state attorney general – joined by the city attorney of Los Angeles and the district attorney of Solano County – filed against Astro Turf, the first branded distributor of synthetic grass; Beaulieu Group, which sells to Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Lowe’s, and Field Turf USA, a leading manufacturer and installer of football fields.
The Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland nonprofit, sued Shaw Industries, one of the world’s biggest carpet companies, as well as Synthetic Turf International and Turf Headquarters, name-brand vendors.
In May, the center sued Beaulieu, and sent letters of intent to sue 15 other manufacturers, distributors and retailers. On Tuesday, the center also filed additional intent-to-sue letters. None of the company representatives could be reached for comment Tuesday.
According to Ragen, there have been very productive settlement negotiations with Astroturf and Beaulieu. He hasn’t yet been able to talk to Field Turf, he said.
Annie Costa, executive director of the Association of Synthetic Grass Installers, said the trade group is looking forward to receiving clear direction on how to handle existing inventories, including what kinds of warnings or health advisories would be appropriate. The industry is already beginning to reformulate the products because of California’s concerns, she said.
In 2007, 20 million square feet of artificial turf was installed in landscapes, lawns, putting greens, day care centers and kennels, among other locations in California; 35 million square feet were installed in sport fields, including football, lacrosse, soccer and field hockey.
San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department has issued a report that recommends putting in dozens of lead-free artificial turf grass and environmentally sound base materials.
In July, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission looked at 14 samples from four companies and determined that synthetic turf wasn’t a danger because of lead. However, the agency recommended that companies voluntarily remove it. Some have already begun to phase it out.
The state of New Jersey found high lead levels at community athletic fields, generating an inquiry by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  But more comprehensive lead studies procured by the Center for Environmental Health found lead in artificial turf at worrisome levels, including artificial grass used by residential installers and do-it-yourselfers.
More than 150 samples from two dozen companies tested by an independent lab showed that 30 percent had high lead levels. Ten or more companies had high levels of lead in different varieties of artificial turf. One of the major companies had a sample showing lead at 150 times higher than federal standards that will come into play with new legislation banning lead in children products. The concerns are that children put their contaminated hands in their mouths or breathe in dust from degraded plastic.