Are petrochemicals in artificial sports turfs causing cancer?
Millions of kids and professional athletes all over the world play on this stuff for years of their lives, but now there’s a deadly new revelation that synthetic, petrochemical-laden turf may actually cause cancer. Something is very wrong when you have 18-year-old girls coming down with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in clusters who all just so happen to have spent years and years playing soccer, for example…
These people — these kids — deserve better than this.
Worse in the long run, though, is the terminal cancer of corporations protecting their potentially hazardous products through a haze of lobbyists and special interest “councils” that build up layers of protection in the form of everything from asking the wrong scientific questions to providing red herring studies to basically finding any way out of culpability and losing even one red cent off their bottom lines at the expense of everyone’s health and our very lives.
That is basically how this country is run these days, and it’s utterly disgusting.
NBC News played up the personal stories of several girls dealing with cancer who happened to be soccer goalies – and who felt, in one way or another, there was a connection to the black rubber clumps from their playing fields:
Artificial turf fields are now everywhere in the United States, from high schools to multi-million-dollar athletic complexes. As any parent or player who has been on them can testify, the tiny black rubber crumbs of which the fields are made — chunks of old tires — get everywhere. In players’ uniforms, in their hair, in their cleats.
But for goalkeepers, whose bodies are in constant contact with the turf, it can be far worse. In practices and games, they make hundreds of dives, and each plunge sends a black cloud of tire pellets into the air. The granules get into their cuts and scrapes, and into their mouths. Griffin wondered if those crumbs – which have been known to contain carcinogens and chemicals – were making players sick.
Their stories – detailed in NBC’s article – are heartbreaking, yet somehow familiar in these times.
Despite a cluster of athletes – and goalies in particular – with unfortunate cases of Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the powers-that-be claim the material is safe. NBC asserted that their own “extensive investigation” of the evidence found that “no research has linked cancer to artificial turf.” Hmmm.
They heavily cited the evidence presented by The Synthetic Turf Council, an industry lobbying group, who insist that all is well with their fields – which can easily run half a million dollars or more per field. One Turf Council board member told NBC, “We’ve got 14 studies on our website that says we can find no negative health effects.”
Meanwhile, the Rubber Manufacturers Association, another industry lobbying group, insists that not only is no harm done, but the fields are an “environmental success story” – after all, the tires that became turf crumbs were destined for landfills, while the water and pesticides that would have been used on grass fields was spared from use. Spokesperson Dan Zielinski stated, “There are benefits here. The potential risk, as we know it today, is extremely low.”
The Synthetic Turf Council website goes even further, claiming that:
“More than 75 independent and credible studies from groups such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and statewide governmental agencies such as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of Health and the California Environmental Protection Agency, have validated the safety of synthetic turf.” [emphasis added]
But those are studies that “validate” the assumption of safety that the lobbyists need to maintain their image; nowhere does it state that there is no evidence of the potential harm. Those studies exist, but one imagines they just aren’t considered “credible” by those profiting with their ears plugged and their eyes closed.
Yet, the materials the turf is comprised of knowingly have been connected with cancer in animal studies and are suspected human carcinogens – so why is there an assumption that this stuff is safe?
To cite just one example of the obvious evidence of risk, there is this study, published in the prestigious peer-reviewed Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, which focused on just the effects of the benzene from artificial turfs in the 2011 paper, Benzothiazole Toxicity Assessment in Support of Synthetic Turf Field Human Health Risk Assessment. The rodents studies linked benzene with “acute toxicity and is a respiratory irritant and dermal sensitizer,” with “genetic toxicity,” and with “mutagenic and carcinogenic potential.” 2-MBZT (a structural analogue of benzene) is a known rodent carcinogen and has been linked with human bladder cancer.
The clumped turf pellets are made from used tires, which contain a number of harmful chemical contaminants. As People for Less Pollution point out, “the rubber in tires contains 25% extender oils derived from benzene, 25% styrene, a derivative of benzene, and 25% 1,3 butadiene. – both benzene and 1,3 butadiene are suspected human carcinogens.”
Additionally, significant levels of heavy metals – lead, cadmium and mercury – have been found to accumulate in tires from roadways, etc. along with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and semi-volatile organic compounds. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services conducted studies on “artificial turf playing fields in that state [and] found these fields contain potentially unhealthy levels of lead dust.” Weathering and breakdown of the materials played a role in their releasing more pollutants.
As Jamesiz King commented on YouTube, “Side effects of grass include: green stains on clothing, a runny nose when cut…aaaand not lymphoma.”
Again, the health risks here – with synthetic playing fields roasting in the sun, releasing vapors and degrading with the wear and tear of the sport – are clear enough.
But just as we have seen with dangerous food ingredients, GMOs, vaccines and numerous other environmental hazards, those with the power to switch to better materials or withdrawal their questionable products from the market have chosen NOT to do so… erring on the side of federal agency rubber stamp approval – general recognitions of safety (GRAS).
Analyses of synthetic turf materials have concluded a vague ‘de minimus’ assumption of no harm to human health, just as others have done for food ingredients which contain known or suspected carcinogens but are thought to have low enough concentrations to pose no risk. That, however, is a dangerous assumption.
Typically, when even tested AT ALL, this is only measured in short term, acute risk, with little regard to the chronic build up of known or suspected carcinogens and heavy metals in the body – which may well lead to cancer or epigenetic changes in gene expression and DNA structure.
While the science is BEHIND the reality of our modern exposure to chemical and metal risk factors, studies are now focusing on this issue, with one National Institutes of Health study finding: “Over the last decade or two, studies in the field of metal carcinogenesis suggest that epigenetic mechanisms may play a role in metal-induced carcinogenesis.”
Can society not learn these lessons already, and use the precautionary principle to protect the children – and adults – playing on these fields and eating these foods? Are we just to look back and wish we had done things differently?
Again, the issue of artificial sports turfs is just ONE EXAMPLE of countless areas where potentially dangerous petrochemical by-products have entered our lives. BPA, aspartame, MSG, artificial colors & preservatives, pesticides/herbicides and others have all shown the chances most of us in society take everyday based on the assumption that the things we take for granted are actually safe and OK to use.
Let’s go ahead and ask ourselves: what will the next example be?