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Letter: Science shows crumb rubber is safe as infill for turf fields

Science shows crumb rubber is safe as infill for turf fields

I am a board-certified toxicologist at Gradient, an environmental and risk sciences consulting firm. Given the recent debate in Williamsville, I wanted to offer a scientific perspective on the safety of crumb rubber infill for turf fields. Unfortunately, a number of media reports paint the picture that there is substantial uncertainty regarding chemical exposures from crumb rubber. If you look closely at the science, it’s clear that such claims are unfounded.

The only certainty in science is that some level of uncertainty exists everywhere, so the key is to examine the best available science: regulatory risk assessments and studies that have been subjected to peer review. Dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles and multiple state health agencies support the conclusion that the use of crumb rubber in artificial turf does not pose a concern for health risks, and to my knowledge, not one such study has said the opposite.

Some of these studies have examined chemicals in synthetic turf and found concentrations for some are similar to, or lower than, those found in natural soils. In addition, the finding of chemicals in a substance does not necessarily imply a health risk. We interact with products with potentially harmful chemicals (cellphones, computers, carpets) as part of everyday life, however, because exposures are low they are not considered to pose health risks.

Children’s safety should be placed above all else, but when making decisions, claims devoid of evidence shouldn’t undermine science. Here, the best available science indicates there would be no health concerns had crumb rubber been selected as infill. Hopefully future decisions regarding field upgrades and installations will be driven by analysis of facts and available data, which will lead to the same conclusion.

Michael Peterson

Scientific Adviser

Recycled Rubber Council