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Materials testing and development company Lucideon (Stoke-on-Trent, UK) has published a white paper investigating concerns that rubber crumb from recycled tires used to make artificial turf in athletic fields may cause cancer.

Norbert Sparrow

November 18, 2016

2 Min Read
Does artificial turf pose a cancer risk?

A white paper from Lucideon, a company headquartered in Stoke-on-Trent, UK, that provides an array of materials testing and development services, investigates concerns that rubber crumb from recycled tires could be linked to incidences of cancer in soccer players.

Image courtesy m_bartosch/
freedigitalphotos.net.

Recycling the rubber from tires for use as an infill material in artificial turf for athletic fields has become popular worldwide because it is significantly less expensive than alternative materials. However, it may have created some health concerns.

Rubber tires contain many potentially harmful chemicals, which are being proposed as a source of harm for players, writes Lucideon. The white paper investigates the tests and procedures performed on rubber crumb samples to determine the presence and concentration of harmful chemicals that leach from the crumb. A handful of studies have looked at this over the years. 

A Norwegian study from 2006 found that the artificial turf contained “components [that] are associated with adverse effects on health,” writes UK newspaper the Telegraph, and a 2008 study conducted in Michigan also found a number of harmful chemicals. The article by Jonathan Wells in the Telegraph focuses on the case of an 18-year-old soccer player who contracted Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The father believes that materials leaching out of the artificial turf caused his son’s cancer.

“When rubber tires were first used for artificial sport fields it was a welcome solution to recycling used tires and reducing the costs of installation,” said Craig Donald, Head of Chemistry, Technical Manager, at Lucideon. “This has led to a large number of these pitches being installed worldwide, which on the face of it is a good thing.

“People are now becoming concerned that there seems to be a correlation between regular pitch users and certain cancer diagnoses,” continues Donald. “Most studies focus on [soccer] players and appear to indicate that a higher number of cancer cases appear in goalkeepers, the players who are most likely to experience skin contact on the rubber crumb.”

The white paper also considers the environmental impact of heavy metals present in the rubber that could potentially find their way into water streams. “The white paper focuses on the chemical analyses that have been performed on the recycled crumb product to determine what is leaching from the material and in what quantity,” added Donald. “What we don’t study are exposure levels, which is, of course, a significant factor in the risk of playing on these surfaces and to the environment.”

“Are 3G Artificial Pitches Harmful to Players and the Environment?” is available as a free download (registration required) from the Lucideon website.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.

www.linkedin.com/in/norbertsparrow

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