No shredded tires in Aylmer’s sports turf, but is it any safer?
There will be no rubber pellets from used tires in Aylmer’s coming artificial sports fields. Two new fields were announced for l’école secondaire Grande-Rivière and D’Arcy McGee High School.
Most artificial turf today contains rubber from used tires, but the city is banning shredded tires for health reasons.
“Although studies show no risks from synthetic fields, Gatineau is taking all safety measures. For the synthetic field at l’école secondaire Le Carrefour (in Gatineau sector), to be completed soon, the call for tender specifically excluded pellets from recycled tires,” stated the city; “La Commission scolaire des Draveurs has also excluded recycled tire pellets from its synthetic fields. This includes fields in Aylmer in 2017.”
The rubber pellets, known as “crumb rubber”, are used extensively in artificial turfs with fibres and sand. However, evidence seems to show some materials in artificial turf are unsafe.
The well-known scientist Dr. Meg Sears of Prevent Cancer Now, wrote in her article “The dirt on artificial turf” that “the US Environmental Protection Agency found artificial turf contains toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury. Cancer-causing and otherwise toxic chemicals can dissolve in rainwater as well as off-gas, especially in the sun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported potentially worrisome levels of lead in dust on older fields (only lead was measured). A recent review acknowledges toxic hydrocarbons and metals may enter the air and water from artificial turf, although levels vary widely, and are sometimes comparable to other sources of urban pollution such as vehicle exhaust.”
Dr. Sears told the Bulletin it is encouraging that the city is banning used tires, but noted that ground-up rubber, whether from used tires or elsewhere, is rubber with the same properties.
“The toxic components are from the artificial rubber - not because the tires are old. ‘Rubber’ is a generic term,” she added. “The fumes and particulate from ground rubber contain toxic chemicals, and the cancer cluster among soccer goalies who played on artificial turf with ‘crumb rubber’ continues to grow,” said Sears. “Among 27 players with cancer, 22 are goalies. Diving for balls, they breathe and ingest more rubber crumb than other players.”
Sears notes that it is difficult to prove materials in artificial turf are directly linked to cancer. She does recommend that athletes who use this turf “wash their hands and face well before eating, and minimize ingestion of dust and rubber. Keep water bottles off the ground.” Moreover, she notes that it’s important for the proper authorities to “test the crumb for toxic chemicals, as well as testing the water runoff.”
A city spokesperson indicated by email that, in the case of l’école secondaire Carrefour, “an independent laboratory, hired by the contractor, takes care of analyzing the rubber prior to its installation, ensuring its conformity.” In the case of the l’école secondaire Carrefour, the type of rubber used was EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) rubber.
As Dr. Sears noted, she does not know the projected life-span for this type of material, but noted it was synthetic rubber and still had concerns.
“It’s either going to break down very quickly, in which case it won’t be a great thing to put on a turf field. If it doesn’t break down quickly, it’s still going to turn into little persistent fragments which accumulate toxic chemicals and affect things up the food chain.
“We know that from water and from studies in earth worms,” she said. This will kick the accumulation up the food chain. Regardless of these concerns, many public organizations and sports clubs are going ahead with
“There’s no conclusive proof that it’s going to cause harm, but there’s certainly no conclusive proof that it’s going to be safe,” said Sears. “It’s unfortunate that the research is framed in such a way that they would conclude that it’s the best alternative. We must question the framework within which these kinds of decisions are being made because they have a lot of external implications and repercussions that are not taken into account. There are much broader considerations that really should be brought to bear on these kinds of