Artificial Turf: Is it Safe to Play On?

Soccer, football, and baseball fields across the country are being changed over from live grass to artificial turf. The technology has come a long way, and the turf is actually much gentler on the body than it once was. However, recent reports have surfaced leading people to believe that the turf isn’t exactly safe for athletes to play on. Keep reading to see how playing on artificial turf can affect your health.

How the Turf is Made

Back in the 1960’s the first artificial turf was developed. It got the nickname AstroTurf when this hard and rough surface was installed in the Houston Astrodome. The name stuck and AstroTurf became a brand name. Despite the fact that it was hard, and hurt when you slid on it, the turf was still used around the country. It wasn’t until around the year 2000 that big developments in how it was made actually improved the product.

Artificial Turf today is composed of multiple layers. A thick padding is first put down to provide the bulk of the softening. This padding is rolled out before the “grass” is put on top. The grass is actually made up of different shaped silicone fibers. Since real grass is not all one uniform length, and not every blade is shaped the same, the manufacturers of artificial turf incorporate different blades to not only make it look real, but also feel real. Once it is down, the entire playing surface is sprinkled with crumb rubber to add another softening layer. This crumb rubber is where the problems occur.

What is Crumb Rubber?

Crumb rubber is actually chopped up bits of old car and truck tires. Instead of sending them off to the landfill where they could take thousands of years to decompose, they are given a second life. Tires are ground into tiny pieces, or crumbs, and sprinkled throughout the playing area. The problem is that the rubber is not adhered to the playing surface.

Whenever a player hits the ground, bits of this rubber bounce up and out from between the blades of grass. The crumb rubber gets lodged in hair, clothing, stuck inside open abrasions, swallowed and inhaled. Players estimate that they swallow hundreds of these crumbs every season. And that is what causes the problems.

Is Crumb Rubber Safe?

Tires are made with relatively few restrictions. Often they incorporate a number of heavy metals and known human carcinogens. The reason is they are not designed to come into contact with humans, so food grade materials don’t need to be used. But when they are ground up into crumb rubber, and players inadvertently swallow them, which causes problems.

There are a number of players that have contracted Leukemia and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. These blood cancers are relatively rare, but they do occur naturally. But the proportion of athletes that have been diagnosed is way more than the amount that would have naturally come down with the disease. The culprit, it seems, is the carcinogens in the rubber.

What to Do

If you only use an artificial field once or twice per year, you are likely safe. However, there are many people who use them every day, year after year. This frequent exposure can lead to these serious health problems. If you have used artificial turf regularly, and you have been diagnosed with blood cancer, you should contact a personal injury attorney right away.