You may have seen the news reports from last year. There were multiple exposés that talked about artificial turf playing fields, and how they can cause cancer. Unfortunately once those aired there was a lot of commotion, and then very little was said. The fact is, however, that nothing has changed.
Reports Show Artificial Turf is Dangerous
These artificial turf playing fields are designed for one reason: to save money in the long term. Traditional playing fields cost a lot of money in ongoing maintenance. They need to be watered, mowed, painted, trimmed, manicured, planted, replanted, and to top it all off they can be uneven and get messy when it rains. To combat these problems artificial turf is installed as a one-time cost. Ongoing maintenance is minimal, and over time those who own the fields save money.
The turf is made up of several components. There is an underlayment that is padded, synthetic blades of grass that look and feel real. And then there is a component called crumb rubber. This rubber is made up of ground up car and truck tires. It sounds like a great way to keep tires out of the landfill, but it ends up being a great way to cause cancer.
Car and truck tires were never meant to come into much contact with humans. Therefore, they are made with components that can be deadly to humans, like arsenic, heavy metals, and other cancer causing agents. This is fine if the tires stay on the vehicles.
The crumb rubber on playing fields is not adhered to the surface. So when an athlete falls onto the ground, the rubber bounces up and out from between the blades of grass. Those bits of rubber are then swallowed, inhaled, become lodged in open abrasions, and otherwise enter the human body. Over time the crumb rubber can lead to various types of blood cancers like Hodgkins Lymphoma or leukemia.
What to Do
For those who are concerned about crumb rubber, there are some options. You dont have to play on artificial turf; there are still plenty of traditional fields around. And dont worry; one time on one of these fields is not likely to have long-term effects. The key is to keep everything in moderation.