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Ken-Ton School Board weighs synthetic turf, safety issues

Crosby Field in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District will soon be changed from grass to artificial turf as part of a districtwide capital project.

But the School Board has concerns about the health safety of the material to be used to in-fill the field.
It’s called “crumb rubber” and made of recycled automotive tires.

Questions have been raised recently on a national level about a possible link between crumb rubber used to in-fill fields and cancer diagnoses in young athletes.

The Williamsville Central Schools grappled with the issue earlier this year and settled on synthetic EPDM rubber, short for ethylene propylene diene monomer, also known as “virgin rubber.” EPDM is considered a premium alternative to crumb rubber.

Ken-Ton School Board member Thomas J. Reigstad, who first raised the concerns in August, said Tuesday that he continues to have “misgivings” about crumb rubber.

He suggested that the board wait until the results of a major study of crumb rubber by the federal Environmental Protection Agency are known later this year. He pointed out that in August, the school district in Port Byron, Cayuga County, adopted that approach for renovations at its fields.

“Out of concern for our students’ health and safety, I suggest that we hold off for now on laying down the crumb rubber surface for the football field at Crosby Field and adopt a wait-and-see approach until the EPA study is released,” he said.

Reigstad said the EPA conducted a study in 2009 that found toxins in crumb rubber, but “only enough to merit a low level of concern.”

This year, the EPA said that it could not stand by that study because it was limited and decided to follow up with the major study, which includes other federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.

The School Board’s four other trustees agreed with Reigstad’s concerns and decided to create a subcommittee to look into different material options and the effects a change may have on the district’s contract for the work.

Late last month, the board agreed to start the work at Crosby this fall instead of in the spring. Other options besides crumb rubber or EPDM include more natural material such as coconut, cork and sand – but each of those also have downsides.

“I think it’s a serious issue and I’d definitely like to see us proceed with caution,” said board member Christine M. Cavarello. “I’d rather wait than move forward with something we could potentially feel like is a mistake down the road.”


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