A new bill to protect school children from toxins found in artificial turf has been introduced in the state legislature by Sen. Jerry Hill (D) San Mateo.
SB 47, the children’s safe playground and turf Field act of 2015 was introduced by Hill on December 17. The bill would place a moratorium on the installation of crumb rubber fields by public or private schools or local governments until 2018. The measure calls for the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to study crumb rubber in the meantime.
“The Los Angeles Unified School District and New York City have already implemented complete bans — this is just a temporary moratorium until a thorough analysis can be conducted,” Hill said in a press release.
“Concerns have mounted about chemical compounds contained in recycled rubber tires as an increasing number of young athletes have developed leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and testicular, prostate, and other forms of cancer,” the release added.
Concern over crumb rubber artificial turf has been increasing for years, but a recent NBC report has reinvigorated the debate. That report features a soccer coach at the University of Washington, Amy Griffin, who has tabulated a list of more than two dozen soccer players who have cancer. Griffin believes crumb rubber is the cause. Twenty two out of 27 players on her list are goalkeepers — no coincidence, Griffin says, because goalies often dive to the turf and spend more time rolling on the field than other players.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has studied crumb rubber and identified a litany of toxins it may contain. But it has left it to states and local governments to choose their own policies.
Several states and organizations have studied the health hazards of crumb rubber, too. By and large they have concluded that the rubber contains relatively low levels of toxins but assert that more research should be conducted.
Crumb rubber makers shred tires of various types from an array of manufacturers. Since ingredients vary among tires, it’s difficult to determine what exactly each field contains.
Some cities and school districts feel they already know enough to act — they don’t want to wait for California or anyone else to release a study. New York City has banned crumb rubber, and the Los Angeles Unified School District has placed a ban on installing new crumb rubber athletic fields.
LAUSD’s 2008 ban came on the heels of the discovery of lead found in play areas at nine preschools. Though the lead was “below levels considered dangerous to children,” according to press release issued at the time, the district removed crumb rubber from 54 preschools. It later filed several Proposition 65 lawsuits against a series of turf companies it alleged wrongly sold it crumb rubber containing lead and carbon black. The lawsuits were settled.
The state of California has already studied crumb rubber in 2010. The study looked at the hazards of inhaling the air above crumb rubber fields. After the study, the legislature was given a report that concluded “these fields do not pose a serious public health concern.”
According to Hill the 2010 study “didn’t do as much as we’d like.” His bill calls for a study that would examine crumb rubber for a long list of toxins, evaluate the risk to various populations at varying exposure levels, look for various cancer types connected to exposure, examine the products of various manufacturers, and look at how age of a field, heat or sunlight affect exposure.