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Turf could pose a health threat

Campbell River city council should do its homework before deciding on artificial turf field

I am interested in the controversy regarding the installation of tire crumb based artificial turf and have done some research.

Every parent, grandparent, coach, taxpayer and anyone else who has an interest in this matter should do so.

To say it was an eye-opener would be an understatement. I could not believe the health and environmental hazards associated with this material.

A few of the hazards follow and there are more – but you get the idea.

Each playing field is comprised of 120 tons (up to 20,000) of finely ground road tires, which give off a cocktail of chemicals.

  • The artificial surface contributes to injuries including turf burn and extremity injuries.

  • Breathing problems have been reported, as the finely ground up tire material is readily inhaled – particularly problematic for asthma suffers.

  • Increased MRSA risk (which is a highly contagious antibiotic resistant staph bacterial infection) and other bacterial infections, because the surface is more hospitable to bacterial longevity.

  • Exposure to arsenic, lead, zinc, cadmium, selenium, chromium, phthalates (which affect reproductive organs).

  • The risk of severe health problems such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when exposed to the tire crumbs from which the turf is made.

These fields are being questioned all over the world. The following are some examples.

  • The Italian Minister of Health has found them potentially carcinogenic.

  • Both the Centre for Disease Control and Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Centre have issued warnings.

  • Norway has banned artificial turf.

  • The Union of European Football Associations ordered their finals to take place on natural grass.

  • New York city parks have forbidden the installation of any new artificial turf fields pending resolution of potential hazards. So has the Los Angeles School District. Both of these cities say the health of those who use the playing fields come first.

  • The NFL Players Association is concerned about artificial turf because of greater tendency to aggravate injury.

  • The Swedish Chemical agency recommended that tire waste not be used because it releases hazardous material.

  • Holland has found lead, zinc and other chemical leaching to be a problem.

  • Korea is investigating multiple complaints of breathing problems and eye irritation.

Artificial turf requires more maintenance than commonly thought, as it is prone to developing moulds, algae and moss. It requires regular applications of algaecides and moss removers. Any leaves, twigs, needles etc. need constant maintenance to remove as they contribute to algae and moss growth.

Supposedly this turf has a 25-year lifetime. This has not been proven, as it has not been used on playing fields for that long.

If allegations against tire crumb based fields are proven to be true, these fields may have to be removed.

Extensive work is required to return the fields to their former conditions.

The cons outweigh the pros.

Do you really want your children and grandchildren or yourself playing on a surface that could cause harm? Do you really want to take these risks just to have fewer sports cancellation times?

There are safer sand-based alternatives available. Is this the type Campbell River is considering? It would be more expensive, but is supposed to be preferable health-wise.

There are also hardier natural turfs that could be an option.

Putting in tire crumb based fields now, just because other Island communities have, is not a good enough reason.

Maybe they were put in before much was known about the negative aspects.

Maybe they just had really good artificial turf sales people. Voters already turned down these fields.

Could the city be at risk of being sued if players are injured or become ill?

Perhaps this very important issue should be revisited before any further action is taken.


Yvonne Andre

Campbell River