Recent headlines have stoked fears across the country with suggestions that synthetic turf fields using recycled rubber are harmful to children.  The reality is that an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence has found no connection between these fields and cancer or other health issues.  However, it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect worried parents to have to go to peer-reviewed journals for answers. This is why it’s high time for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set the record straight by conducting its own conclusive analysis of the scientific data on synthetic turf and recycled rubber – and for policymakers to push them to do so.  EPA owes this peace of mind to families, coaches and schools throughout America.  

Of course, EPA may say that the safety and health of our children is not an issue that should be taken lightly, and more time is needed for thoughtful and science-based analysis.  We fully support additional research and will do whatever we can as an industry to make them happen, but we also believe they have what they need. Dozens of studies from academic, federal and state government organizations have looked at fields across variables – location, age, temperature – and found that there is no greater health risk to playing on artificial turf field than playing on urban or rural soil.  Of note, certain states have taken it upon themselves to conduct their own studies of the impacts of artificial turf to address public concern, and also found no elevated health risk associated with these fields. 

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In Connecticut, for example, four state agencies including the University of Connecticut Health Center, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, the Department of Public Health and the Department of Environmental Protection evaluated the health and environmental impacts associated with artificial turf fields containing crumb rubber infill.  The findings were peer-reviewed by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering and indicated that there was no health concern stemming from chemicals in outdoor crumb rubber fields.  The same results were found in Massachusetts, and would likely be the case in other states, as the science is overwhelmingly clear.

This should be high on EPA’s priority list.  The importance of addressing concerns over the safety of turf fields cannot be overstated, given that schools are increasingly installing them to take advantage of their benefits, including that they actually reduce injuries to players and make it easier for children to play sports and engage in physical activity, which helps combat obesity.

Despite these benefits and the clear scientific evidence, propaganda and hearsay fueled by special interests continue to spread the wrong information about artificial turf and crumb rubber, presenting a major challenge to municipalities, schools and others who operate or are considering installing artificial playing fields.  This is why as three of the leading manufacturers of these fields, we recently banded together along with several leading recycled rubber manufacturers to help form the Safe Fields Alliance – a coalition dedicated to educating stakeholders around the safety of synthetic turf fields and crumb rubber.

The bottom line is that as the leading government entity charged with protecting human health and the environment, EPA must provide the right guidance to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are impacted by and need to make decisions about artificial turf.  We have made multiple visits to EPA over the years to press them to act. Policymakers can do their part by calling on EPA to recognize the importance of this issue to ensure that families, schools, teachers and coaches are confident in the safety of artificial turf.  Conducting a comprehensive scientific analysis of the issue would go a long way toward setting parents’ minds at ease, and would show that EPA is committed to upholding its responsibility of making sure that families across the nation stay healthy, safe, and well-informed.

Gill is vice president of marketing at Fieldturf; Reddy is managing partner at Sprinturf; Heard Smith is COO at Astroturf.