Published on May 11, 2016 by Shelby Scott  

Football, soccer, and several other sports fields across the nation are modernizing into an easier to pamper, yet more expensive, artificial turf. There is a lasting debate including the “crumb rubber” that fills all artificial turf and whether or not these recycled pieces of tire are toxic for the children and young adults mainly found playing on it. Should parents and leaders of communities be alarmed?

Depending on who is asked and what that individual has researched, science and statistics have proven both sides of this argument to be correct.

Most companies that pay and maintain synthetic fields, do not test for toxicity within the rubber fill. The Department of Public Health is in charge of gathering that data and presenting it to the concerned individuals within the community. After DPH willingly performed a risk assessment, there were no signs of elevated cancer risk. Alarmed citizens across the United States have continued to fight that study and further the research implemented for this issue.

Artificial turf is becoming more and more popular as the years go on. Sports are improving and becoming a main hobby in most American families. Children constantly running through the crumb rubber fill with the turf are exposed to those recycled tire pieces in more ways than one. Not only can they enter the home in uniforms or socks, these little rubber pieces are small enough to be swallowed or inhaled, and prone to find way into open wounds. This is where concern is brought into the picture and research is needed to bring safety assurance to families with young children constantly in synthetic turf.

Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health Inc. (@ EHHI) states, “When you have 12 carcinogens and 40 irritants listed (within the DPH claim), that is a problem, especially when schools close to remove asbestos or PCBs, which are just as toxic. We think all these fields will have to come up. People need to ask themselves if they really care about their children’s health.” Nancy Alderman is fighting for children’s safety and outwardly disputes DPH.

Alderman believes all fields should be removed from communities, even though there are several benefits connected to artificial turf. Factors advocates cite include improved safety, playability, appearance, proliferation of multi-use athletic fields, lower annual operating costs and reduced maintenance requirements. Overall, money is saved throughout communities taking advantage of artificial turf, but the question is if the benefits outweigh the potential hazardous health issues connected.

Alderman further explains that the most common athlete to show signs of being affected by these chemicals are soccer players, specifically goalies. She supported a study done by Yale University, which found crumb rubber pieces contain 96 different chemicals, and 20 percent of the toxic chemicals present were carcinogens.

Chemicals Present in Crumb Rubber

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil and gasoline. 13 out of the 17 most harmful PCHs that exhibit the more detrimental effects are found in substantial amounts within the fill of synthetic turf (as shown on the chart). Yet, health agencies and researchers continue to support artificial turf. High heat is a main cause of release and exposure of PCHs. Considering turf has been recorded to reach up to 199 degrees on a day when the air temperature was 98 degree, which is higher than the 122 degrees that is considered safe for athletes to play on; I would say turf is regularly releasing PCHs into the atmosphere and into the systems of exposed athletes.

Being a former college athlete and understanding how much running, sliding, and overall touching of the ground beneath you is so common during practices or games, I can support the concern from communities on the hazardous causes artificial turf can bring to young athletes. Most of the current young generation will grow up solely playing on turf sporting facilities and being exposed to crumb rubber starting at an early age without secure data to prove full safety could be detrimental to the future society. Cancer is already becoming more common throughout the world, and being able to protect upcoming generations from possible cancer-causing agents is something that needs to be done.

Health agencies and institution should and will constantly be digging up new research about artificial turf and the crumb rubber fill used within it.

This blog post was written by Samford University student Shelby Scott.

Works Cited

Artificial turf: Safety debate scrutinizes a level playing field. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from

Blumenthal calls for federal study of crumb rubber used on sports fields ... (2015, November 7). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from

Feds Won't Say If Artificial Turf on Your Kid's Soccer Field Is Safe. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2015.

Public Health Statement for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from

Release of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Heavy Metals from Rubber Crumb in Synthetic Turf Fields: Preliminary Hazard Assessment for Athletes. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from