There has been recent press coverage raising concern over public health effects from exposure to crumb rubber particles composed of recycled automobile tires, a material used as infill in some synthetic turf surfaces. Concerns have been expressed that exposure to elements and compounds contained in recycled tire rubber by inhalation, ingestion or skin contact may be harmful to the health of athletes playing on synthetic turf surfaces which use these materials as infill. Concerns have also been expressed regarding potential for surface water runoff from these surfaces to negatively impact groundwater quality. There do not appear to be concerns regarding the polyethylene fibers used in current generation synthetic turf products; it should be noted that the recent highly-publicized closure of fields in New Jersey involved older field surfaces utilizing fiber materials and coatings that manufacturers state are no longer in widespread use.
Scientific studies have been released over the past year that reach opposite conclusions on the issue of the potential health risks associated with use of such surfaces. Some studies, including a study produced by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment of the California Environmental Protection Agency in 2007, have concluded that there is little or no health risk associated with the use of recycled tire rubber as infill in these surfaces; others have concluded that there is material health risk associated with such use. To the knowledge of the American Sports Builders Association, no scientific study has documented injury to health or the environment attributable to use of recycled tire rubber as infill in synthetic turf surfaces.
The American Sports Builders Association’s primary focus in this area relates to the construction of synthetic turf fields. It has not commissioned a scientific study to address the potential health issues presented by use of recycled tire infill, or any other materials used in synthetic turf fields, and does not anticipate doing so. It is not able to make a definitive statement on this issue, and suggests that consumers of these products look to the manufacturers and suppliers of synthetic turf surfaces and infill materials to provide further useful information.
The ASBA is a non-profit association, helping designers, builders, owners, operators and users understand quality sports facility design, construction and maintenance. ASBA sponsors informative meetings, publishes newsletters and technical guideline specifications, and keeps its members abreast of the latest developments in the industry.