Regulators propose to drastically reduce legal limit for cancer-causing chemicals in artificial sports pitches

Ben Rumsbyin Synthetics

Cancer-causing chemicals in artificial grass pitches could be slashed to almost one sixtieth of current levels under plans drawn up by regulators.

Europe's leading authority on chemical safety, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), announced on Thursday that it had prepared a proposal in co-operation with the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) that would drastically reduce the legal limit for carcinogenic substances in the infill used in so-called 'third generation' (3G) surfaces.

The announcement was made just over two months after a Daily Telegraph investigation revealed the UK Government and country's sports authorities had failed to properly warn millions of footballers and rugby players - including children - to limit their exposure to 3G pitches coated in granules made from used car tyres.

Those surfaces, which - unlike traditional artificial turf - help replicate the playing characteristics of natural grass, contain trace levels of known carcinogens and there have been mounting fears in recent years that repeatedly swallowing those crumbs, inhaling dust or fumes from them, or getting them lodged in cuts or scrapes could be hazardous to health.

Such fears prompted the ECHA to recommend last year that changes be considered to existing regulations to reduce the amount of eight carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) permitted in the crumbs.

And it announced on Thursday that it and RIVM proposed this be slashed to 17mg/kg (0.0017 per cent by weight) from the current concentration limits of 1,000 mg/kg for six of the PAHs and 100 mg/kg for the other two.

The proposal was welcomed by campaigners in the UK, including the father of an aspiring professional who died aged 20 in March after a four-year battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma he feared was caused by swallowing infill.

Lewis Maguire's father, Nigel, a former National Health Service chief, urged the Football Association to take note of Thursday's announcement, posting on Twitter: "Wake up @FA and smell the coffee…"


The above statement from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) comes just 18 months after publishing their findings on the safety of rubber crumb.

They concluded, back then, that rubber crumb was safe and the report was seen by the IOG, FA, RFU, SAPCA et al as a green light to continue with the installation of new 3G pitches. At the time, we believed the statement to be premature.

We know of at least 20 3G pitches that have been installed in the past 2 months - all supported by the FA Facilities Fund, the Premier League, Sport England and local councils - delivered by the Football Foundation and costing £0.5m a time! And remember, this is just football. The RFU are, no doubt, continuing with their programme of installations.

Quite how this apparent U-turn has come about is unknown, but one suspects that pressure from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) will have had a bearing. Or maybe they have had sight of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report out of the States. This is now long overdue, by the way.

That Europe's 'leading authority on chemical safety' should perform such a U-turn is deeply concerning but, nevertheless, one that the governing bodies here in the UK should take note of.

Surely it is time the EPA, ECHA, IOG, FA, RFU and other interested parties got their act together - for the sake of our children's safety?!

You can read the original article from the Daily Telegraph HERE

There is a full report on the current state of play surrounding 3G pitches in issue 80 of Pitchcare magazine, which is published at the end of this month.