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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We’re providing this brand new press release to confirm our first post in regards to health issues, to show that it is indeed a hot topic in the current news and not just a bunch of steam. Pay attention to the highlighted paragraph that addresses exactly what we discussed previously.

 

 

Note in the picture provided by the CSPC (taken from their website), that they are testing only the fiber component of the turf….ignoring the infill.

 

 

 

  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    Contact: Adriana Surfas
Friday, August 8, 2008                           (202) 225-3661

Washington , D.C. – Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3) sent a letter to Nancy A. Nord, acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, questioning the agency’s recently issued report on lead in synthetic turf fields and pressing for a thorough investigation. While the agency declared the fields safe, its conclusions, which were issued so hastily that even the synthetic turf industry was surprised at how quickly they were compiled, appear to be based on flawed methodology and less than sound science.

“It is my understanding that the methodology used in the CPSC study may have been flawed.  As such, the report’s conclusion may have been premature, providing less than adequate rationale to conclude that children are safe from exposure to lead when playing on these fields, or that the fields are safe overall, given the numerous other chemicals that may be found in synthetic turf and the crumb rubber of which it is largely composed,” DeLauro writes in the letter. “Clearly, additional study is needed before synthetic turf fields can definitively be declared safe.”

 

Below is the text of the letter.

 

August 7, 2008

 

Nancy A. Nord, Acting Chairman
Consumer Product Safety Commission
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda , MD 20814

 

Dear Chairman Nord:

 

I am writing to express my deep concerns about the report on lead in synthetic turf fields recently issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  It is my understanding that the methodology used in the CPSC study may have been flawed.  As such, the report’s conclusion may have been premature, providing less than adequate rationale to conclude that children are safe from exposure to lead when playing on these fields, or that the fields are safe overall, given the numerous other chemicals that may be found in synthetic turf and the crumb rubber of which it is largely composed.

The CPSC report itself notes that “this assessment is subject to a number of limitations.” Indeed, I am concerned about the following apparent flaws in the study and unresolved issues regarding the health and safety effects of synthetic turf fields:

 

All ten of the samples of green synthetic grass that were tested (Table 1, Appendix A) appear to have been taken from four fields manufactured by the same firm (Firm 1).  Only the yellow stripes from two other firms (Firms 2 and 3) were tested.  There are approximately 3500 synthetic fields currently in use nationally, and 800 additional fields installed each year at high schools, universities, stadiums, and public parks.  Even if the other nine non-tested samples are taken into account, it seems questionable for the CPSC to characterize to the American people that all synthetic turf fields in the country are safe.

 

Upon close examination, Table 1 in Appendix A contains gaps and unexplained variability in the data presented.  For example, for the third entry for “Firm 1, Green; new, 2008” there are no data entered for subsample 3 under the heading “Lead content (%).”  Also in Table 1, there appears to be far more variation for the “Wipe Sampling Result (microgram)” than in the “Lead content (%)”.  Are there scientific justifications for these data gaps and variability?

 

The CPSC study was titled ‘CPSC Staff Analysis and Assessment of Synthetic Turf “Grass Blades”’.  However, another key concern regarding the safety of synthetic turf is the recycled tire rubber (“crumb rubber”) used in the fields.  It is my understanding that a number of chemicals in addition to lead have been found in the crumb rubber, including benzothiazole (a skin and eye irritant), butylated hydroxyanisole (a carcinogen), n-hexadecane (a severe irritant), 4-(t-octyl) phenol (an irritant), phthalates (endocrine and reproductive toxicant, suspected developmental toxicant), and other chemicals.

 

The CPSC press release acknowledged that “staff recognizes that some conditions such as age, weathering, exposure to sunlight, and wear and tear might change the amount of lead that could be released from the turf. As turf is used during athletics or play and exposed over time to sunlight, heat and other weather conditions, the surface of the turf may start to become worn and small particles of the lead-containing synthetic grass fibers might be released.”  According to the report, the oldest field tested (installed in 1999) was associated with the highest estimated daily ingestion of lead.  It is important to determine whether this result is due to aging of the field, differences in the way turf fields were manufactured between the older and newer samples, or other reasons.

 

 

The potential health effects of the chemicals in synthetic turf must also be weighed along with other potential health risks, such as the risk of an overheated playing field and increased risk of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.

For these reasons, I believe that the study did not adequately support the title of the CPSC press release of July 30, 2008: “CPSC Staff Finds Synthetic Turf Fields OK to Install, OK to Play On.”  Given the numerous unresolved issues relating to the health and safety of synthetic turf, and the limitations described in CPSC’s own study, the CPSC should have proceeded with more caution before issuing the message that synthetic turf fields are “OK to Install, OK to Play On.”  I would appreciate a response from you as to how CPSC decided to issue this message despite the limitations of the synthetic turf study and the fact that synthetic turf may pose a number of health risks in addition to lead exposure.

 

Chairman Nord, I am sure you would agree that it is the responsibility of the CPSC to conduct trustworthy studies and provide accurate information on product safety to the American public. Clearly, additional study is needed before synthetic turf fields can definitively be declared safe.  Parents, schools, parks and recreation departments, and others need accurate answers about the safety and health effects of these fields to make the best possible decisions about where children and others are playing.  Given the severe effects of both childhood and adult obesity on the health of Americans, the need for timely, trustworthy information on synthetic turf is especially important.  I urge CPSC to continue to look into all the potential health effects of synthetic turf fields.  I also understand that CPSC is asking that voluntary standards be developed for synthetic turf, and I would urge that potential toxins in addition to lead be included in these standards.

 

Thank you for your attention to this important health matter.  Please contact me with any questions or concerns, and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely,

Rosa L. DeLauro
Member of Congress