0 Why 3G pitches are being ripped up in Holland over health fears

RubberCrumb iStockThe parents of boys at the Ajax academy De Toekomst in Amsterdam received letters last week to reassure them that from now on, not only would their children not be playing on any of the club's 3G pitches with rubber crumb infill, but those pitches were being removed.

It was a swift response to the findings of a documentary on the Dutch public broadcaster NPO which revealed serious shortcomings in the government-sponsored research in 2006 that had declared the rubber crumb to be safe, thus beginning a 3G boom.

From 300 3G pitches in Holland 10 years ago there are now more than 2,000 of them, in a country where artificial turf and the 120 metric tonnes of rubber crumb used on each one - equating to 20,000 shredded tyres - is big business.

So much so that six Eredivisie teams - Heracles, Sparta Rotterdam, Excelsior, Roda JC, Zwolle and ADO Den Haag - have 3G pitches at their home stadiums. Now, for the first time in Holland, there are major doubts on health grounds.

What is the strongest allegation against rubber crumb, those little black pellets you find in boots, socks and on skin after a game on 3G? It is that carcinogens in the rubber could be responsible for cancer - with children the most vulnerable of all.

The issue was first raised in the United States and was picked up by Nigel Maguire, 52, a former NHS trust chief executive, whose son Lewis, 18, had the white blood cell cancer Hodgkin's lymphoma and is in remission for the second time after a relapse.

LewisMaguireLewis was a goalkeeper, who played on 3G at the academies at Darlington and Leeds United. Nigel describes the boom in 3G rubber crumb pitches as an "industrial scale experiment on the health of our children".

After the findings of the Zembla programme, a weekly news investigation on Dutch television, Holland is now adopting the "precautionary principle" Nigel has long advocated.

What of England? At the end of this month, Martin Glenn, the Football Association chief executive, and Tracy Crouch, the minister for sport, will open in Sheffield the first of the much heralded "hubs" of 3G pitches that will be built in around 30 towns and cities. The initiative was launched by former FA chairman Greg Dyke to increase grassroots participation - but how safe are those grass roots?

The question relates to the kind of tyres or rubber products being recycled and the FA is unequivocal that its rubber crumb meets the European Union standards previously ignored in Holland. The Zembla investigation discovered that some of the rubber crumb used in pitches in Holland had come from rubber pipes used in the petrochemical industry. The question remains: how does anyone track the specific history of a mass recycled waste product?

In June, the English FA referred laboratory study results that it had commissioned into the specific rubber crumb to be used on the pitches built under the new hubs programme to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The FA is satisfied that its rubber crumb passes all safety requirements, the regulation of which is the responsibility of DEFRA and the HSE.

You can read the full article from the Daily Telegraph HERE

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