Reverse turf decision before it’s too late | Guest View

By Washington Alliance for Non-toxic Play and Athletic Fields | Aug 13, 2015

Why is it that when PCBs, a common environmental toxin, are found in a school, the school is closed while they remove it? Even without 100 percent certainty about the health hazards, the carcinogen is removed before the children return.

Why is it that when asbestos is found in a school, the school is closed while they remove it? Again, the carcinogen is removed before the children return.

Why is it that when shredded rubber tires are put on athletic fields schools with many known carcinogens (not just one), the decision-makers conclude that "yes, there are carcinogens in the product, but we do not think the children will be exposed at a level that will harm them." In this case, the carcinogens are not removed.

Health departments, schools and government agencies are choosing to use a whole generation of children and athletes as guinea pigs. Instead of practicing "the precautionary principle" and waiting for more tests to conclude that crumb rubber is a safe product for athletes young and old to play on, leaders are gambling that it's safe.

How has this happened?

@Health issues@

Evidence is definitely NOT "anecdotal," as has been claimed by city staff. Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies' June 2015 research into crumb rubber tire infill used in synthetic turf and rubber tire mulch used as surfacing material in toddler playgrounds shows a number of health hazards.

The rubber tire infill for synthetic turf fields was obtained as new infill material from installers of synthetic turf fields. There were five samples of infill from five different installers of fields and nine different samples of rubber mulch taken from nine different unopened bags of playground mulch.

@1.@ Of the 96 chemicals detected, 49 have been tested and 10 (20 percent) are probable carcinogens. [Before a chemical is listed as a "probable carcinogen," it has been tested to a very high standard. The EPA rarely lists as "probable" any chemical that isn't almost surely carcinogenic.]

@2.@ Of the 49 chemicals that have been tested, 19 (40 percent) are irritants.

@3.@ Of those 19 chemicals, 12 (24 percent) are respiratory irritants; some causing asthma symptoms; 18 (37 percent) can cause skin irritations; and 13 (27 percent) can cause eye irritations.

Chemicals are usually assessed for their toxicity one chemical at a time. Synergistic effects of being exposed to numerous chemicals at the same time are not yet known. From data in the new Yale study, it is likely that persons playing on synthetic turf fields with rubber tire infill or toddler playgrounds surfaced with rubber tire mulch are being exposed concurrently to multiple chemicals.

Importantly, this study did not analyze for carbon black that makes up to 30 percent of each tire, nor did it analyze the carbon black nanoparticles or the nanotubes that are now used in the manufacture of tires. California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concludes that carbon black is "known to the State to cause cancer." The World Health Organization has found it to be carcinogenic in lab animals.

These microscopic particles are health hazards because they can cross biological tissue, migrating to tissues and organs via inhalation, ingestion or skin contact. These microscopic particles can access brain, liver, kidney, spleen and bone marrow cells, leading to cell death. They can damage DNA to lung cells and induce inflammation, allergies, or other immune responses. Diseases associated with inhaled nanoparticles include asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Crohn's and colon cancer. Circulatory system illnesses associated with nanoparticles include arteriosclerosis, blood clots, arrhythmia and heart disease. See detailed chemical components at

@Political issues@

With so many non-toxic alternatives to toxic crumb rubber infill for play fields, why have decision-makers staked their bets on this material being safe?

Public records requests have produced clear evidence that some decisions were made without public knowledge or approval.

Some appear to have been based on private arrangements between City of Edmonds staff and Verdant and/or the Edmonds School District.

For instance, 2012 Department of Ecology regulations for Stormwater Management classify the crumb rubber infill as a "pollution generating impervious surface."

To avoid mitigation requirements under the law, city staffers intentionally chose to follow the 2005 regulations instead of current law. They claimed, "The City would approve a system that just has a sand filter vault without the media filter. It would provide us with some degree of liability coverage without burdening the project with excessive capital or on-going [sic] maintenance costs."

In the matter of when to apply for land use permits, the city advised against following phased in land use applications and for trying to get the ESD vested now "rather than apply for additional land use permits with each phase of development. [...] get all your land use done now and get vested, and then pull building permits for subsequent phases when those pots of money become available." The object was to get vested under current codes instead of later codes that might affect the environment, public comment or other processes.

Other e-mails reveal personal invitations to influential members of the community to get their public support for the ESD-City-Verdant deal.

SEPA reports completed by the city include numerous errors related to animals, noise, and transportation impacts, resulting in a Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) on the project. (WAC 197-11-340)

A major problem with Verdant Health Commission's using Gradient or the ESD's "industrial hygienist” to ascertain the safety of crumb rubber is that they have defended the industry – even FieldTurf, selected for this project. Is there a "conflict of interest" here?

Selecting only the studies in the literature review that were favorable to the ESD's decision is at odds with the "Best Available Science" standard.

We urge all citizens to examine every aspect of this issue that affects so many students and neighbors of playfields with crumb rubber turf and help reverse the decisions made by ESD, City of Edmonds staff and Verdant before it's too late.

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Laura Johnson | Aug 14, 2015 15:48

Crumb rubber is made from tires. Tires contain KNOWN carcinogens. Children and carcinogens do not mix!

Sign the petition to "Ban Crumb Rubber in Edmonds WA" We can do better for our children, community and environment.

Posted by: Douglas Carlson | Aug 17, 2015 18:42

I came into contact with the high level PCB's, phthalates, and PAH's referred to in this letter on a daily basis as a government scientist charged with protecting community and environmental health and safety.  I did it because of my care and concern for my fellow man.  Although I took every advisable precaution, I am aware of the risks that continue to this day.

I once debated an oil industry funded scientist on the extent of PAH pollutants who argued to me that the same pollutants I was identifying from laboratory samples from the deepwater horizon oil spill were identifiable in tire rubber and asphalt leading all the way up to the homes of my city's residents.  He asked me if children were routinely scolded for walking barefoot in a street or an athletic field because of the exposure risk, or if there were auto repair technicians constantly seeking medical treatment from their employers because of the years of exposure to carcinogens.  Although I did not have an answer for him on those issues because of the lack of experimental data, I boldly responded that community residents have a choice to pave their roads with asphalt and use tire crumbs in athletics fields.  My work in the Gulf of Mexico was not an issue of the public choosing for the release of those pollutants into their environment.  In every case of unanticipated release of petroleum products into the environment, the public has lost control of what choices they can make for the place they live with respect to pollutant exposure levels.  We have an opportunity to replace a potentially dangerous material for our children if we choose to do so.  The monetary costs are real, but the health benefits of exercise to our young people has been plainly documented for decades upon decades.

Thank you for your time in reading my letter to the editor


Douglas Carlson

Candidate for Mill Creek City Council Seat #7

Posted by: James Traynor | Aug 19, 2015 22:32

Has the school district thought about using an alternative product that doesn’t require crumb rubber?

AstroTurf has a new product called the AstroTurf Golden Series ( that does not contain any crumb rubber and is a much better solution than some of the alternative infills that are out there.

Please watch this short video and if you are interested in learning more about how this product is a much better highly engineered system than what was originally specified.  I would love to hear from you and drop in to show you samples and answer any questions you may have.


Here is the link to the video again:


Looking forward to hearing from you.






James Traynor

Northwest Regional Sales Manager

Direct:  (206) 979-9792

Fax:  (800) 782-4199



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