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Report: Chance of Children Getting Cancer from Synthetic Fields ‘Less Than One in a Million'

17 May, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Event Owners Can Relax, and Help Parents of Athletes to Do the Same

Event owners worried that the crumb rubber infill in synthetic turf fields is carcinogenic can rest easy, thanks to the results of a new study -- which will also help reassure parents.

According to an article published this week in Washington State’s Herald newspaper, a new study concludes that tests conducted of crumb rubber sports fields in five cities, including the Everett Boys &Girls Club, found that the cancer risk for children playing on the fields was “at or below one in a million.”

That finding was part of a new study conducted by Maryland-based Jenkins Environmental Inc.

The company oversaw a nearly $200,000 project to study the fields’ safety, requested by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation in Baltimore.

Fields tested were located in Everett, Washington; Baltimore, Maryland; Newport News, Virginia; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Hartford, Connecticut.

All were synthetic fields.

“We are very confident in the results,” Steve Salem, the foundation’s chief executive, said in an interview.

“Our role in this was to bring the right people together, to come up with the funding to get this done, and make sure the kids were safe,” he said.

In concluding children’s risk of getting cancer for playing on the fields was at or below one in a million, the report took a heavy view of children’s involvement in sports, assuming that a child would be playing on the artificial turf fields for one to two hours per day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. (Many, outside of those in specialized sports programs, play on these fields far less.)

Alarmists have been complaining about synthetic fields ever since a report on NBC News said there was a purported link between cancer and exposure to the crumb rubber infill of synthetic turf fields, specifically soccer fields, and even more specifically, cancer cases reported among soccer goalies.

Although the report noted, “No research has linked cancer to artificial turf,” it was enough for a nationwide knee-jerk reation, even to the point of having some municipalities considering a ban on building synthetic fields.

Since that time, numerous studies have been conducted by public health officials both nationally and internationally, private foundations, manufacturers of field surface products and more. All have failed to find a link to any form of cancer. In fact, the Maryland firm’s study is the second this year that concluded that crumb rubber sports fields are safe for children to play on.

A national investigation of the possible health effects of playing on crumb rubber fields is now underway, conducted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

However, officials in the Herald article point out, cancer is unfortunately prevalent, even if one is not an athlete. Approximately four out of 10 people will be diagnosed with cancer sometime in their lifetime, the study notes. Leukemia, one of the cancers which has affected some soccer players, is commonly diagnosed before the age of 20, it adds.

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