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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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