Study calls for artificial turf users health watch

External sourcein Synthetics

A study looking at artificial turf, made from recycled rubber crumb, suggests that inadequate monitoring could be jeopardising the health of sportspeople, children and those who work with the material.

The Chemical Watch website reports that the study - Artificial turf: Contested terrains for precautionary public health with particular reference to Europe? - calls for proper cumulative health impact assessments to be carried out.

Research has looked at potential risks to users from substances, such as metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including benzo (a) (e) pyrenes and phthalates, Professor Watterson of the University of Stirling writes. Some are carcinogens and others may be endocrine disruptors and have developmental reproductive effects, he adds.

But only one widely quoted biomonitoring study has been done, and no rigorous cancer epidemiological studies exist, he says.

The report comments; "The global use of artificial sports and play surfaces has brought claimed benefits from exercise, perhaps cost-savings and greater access in all weathers along with claimed major chemical exposure risks. Early problems with sports injuries on these pitches led to changes in the materials used, but relatively little attention was paid to any health risks from the surfaces."

The paper explores some of these debates and how related public health policy and practice issues are addressed. These sometimes complex conflicts may include different assessments about natural versus synthetic materials, old versus new technologies, cost versus environmental considerations, waste disposal versus recycling, occupational versus environmental exposures, profitable industry versus impoverished communities, professional and sporting versus infant and children, and acute versus chronic exposures.

Professor Watterson asks for improved information for users, as well as extensive health monitoring and surveillance by the local authorities and Health and Safety Executive (HSE), whilst data gaps exist.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands and Echa are considering a draft restriction proposal of the content of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in articles, which could be expanded to recycled rubber crumb. The current applicable limit value is not thought protective enough.

The study is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.