Letter to the editor: Health hazards associated with turf fields


lettersDear Editor:

Late last week the NBC Evening News with Lester Holt provided an update on the story it had run earlier about the potential health hazards associated with the use of ground up car and truck rubber tires in the construction of crumb turf fields. After watching the NBC reports, the one conclusion that can be reached is that people on all sides of the issue, including the companies that create and install the turf fields, regulatory bodies of the Federal government, and schools, parents and student athletes do not know if the rubber crumb turf fields are actually safe or unsafe to play on.

What is known from the NBC reports is the following:

That the number of girl soccer goalies, known to Amy Griffin, a Washington State soccer coach who was featured in the NBC story, has increased from 44 to 63 with 15 of those soccer players dying from cancer including lymphoma and leukemia.

That Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency continue to refuse to investigate potential safety issues relating to tire crumb fields and continue to refuse to comment on the potential risks stating that field safety, unlike cigarette warnings and seat belt regulations, is a local and not a Federal issue. Simply put the EPA refuses to declare turf fields safe or unsafe.

That Montgomery County, Maryland which is a suburban county with one million residents has banned the construction of new rubber crumb fields and 50 cities in 17 states have conducted or are conducting in depth studies to try to determine whether or not to proceed with the construction of new turf fields and/or rip up existing turf fields.

That rubber tires used in crumb fields contain a number of carcinogens. What is unknown is whether or not those carcinogens are released during the rubber grinding process and if they are do they exist in the tiny black dots that serve as a cushion among the artificial blades of grass on a crumb turf field?

That non toxic alternatives to rubber crumb fields readily exist including turf fields that are constructed using cork and coconut fibers instead of pulverized rubber tires

What is not known is the following:

What, if any independent studies the Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education conducted prior to approving the construction of tire crumb turf fields at PHS and PHHS?

Which facts derived from those independent studies convinced the Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education that student athletes would be absolutely safe playing on tire crumb turf fields?

What discussions the Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education had in Open and/or Closed sessions regarding the potential health risks associated with constructing tire crumb fields and what information was presented at those sessions to the Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education and by whom?

The turf fields at PHS and PHHS have been constructed but questions remain regarding how safe it is to play on those multi million dollar crumb rubber fields and those questions need to be answered immediately. Hopefully BOE President Orthwein and/or BOE Vice President Neglia will provide the answers. If they do not then their silence will tell parents all they need to know.

Bob Crawford