By Ken Reed
There is a growing concern in the soccer community and elsewhere that today’s artificial turf fields aren’t safe and may cause certain types of cancers. The concern stems from the ubiquitous little rubber crumbs –chunks of old tires — that bounce up from the turf and lodge in open cuts and often land in open mouths and are swallowed.
The tiny black pellets have been known to contain carcinogens and a variety of chemicals. Some people believe the black pellets might be causing athletes, even very young athletes, to get sick with various cancers. Goalies may be particularly susceptible because they are constantly diving on the artificial turf and get more pellets in scrapes and cuts as well as in their mouths.
Soccer coach Amy Griffin, an assistant for the University of Washington women’s team, became suspicious of the little black crumbs and the possible link with cancer when a couple of her goalies were stricken with cancer. She proceeded to do some quick and dirty research. She put together a list of 38 American soccer players — 34 of them goalies — who have been diagnosed with cancer. That raised her suspicions and she then pressed further to see if she could find more health-related information on the artificial turf crumbs.
She discovered there isn’t any research that has directly linked artificial turf to cancer. However, some consumer and environmental advocates say the pellets haven’t been fully tested for safety. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission performed studies over five years ago. They originally deemed the materials safe but more recently called their studies “limited.” The EPA said “more testing needs to be done.”
The industry’s Synthetic Turf Council, says evidence collected so far proves artificial turf is safe. Others aren’t so sure.
“There’s a host of concerns that are being raised,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, an environmental watchdog group. PEER has lodged complaints against both agencies. “None have risen to the level of regulatory interest.”
Dr. Joel Forman, an associate professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, has looked at the rubber crumb related studies.
“None of [the studies] are long term, they rarely involve very young children and they only look for concentrations of chemicals and compare it to some sort of standard for what’s considered acceptable,” said Dr. Forman. “That doesn’t really take into account subclinical effects, long-term effects, the developing brain and developing kids.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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