Would you let your kid play on a pile of tires?
Would you let your child go to birthday parties on a pile of tires?
Would you let your kid compete in soccer on a pile of tires?
No. No. AND probably No.
Yet, Basin Rec is preparing to install another turf field made from recycled tires. KPCW is reporting that Basin Rec will be replacing the field house turf on Wednesday, July 25th. It will be replacing it with the same substance it has previously used, an “infill of rubber.”
We first talked about the danger of these fields in 2014. If you’ve been to one of Basin Rec’s fields, you’ll often see the “rubber dots” that fly up. You’ll often see rubber stuck to your toddler’s socks. You’ll often find rubber pieces in your kid’s hair. You’ll often notice your kid’s hands and feet are stained in black.
That rubber is ground up tires. There are 27 chemicals of concern in crumb rubber (as they call it) and 11 of which are carcinogenic. Those tires contain mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and lead.
The question that many have is whether these tire “bits” are cancerous. The issue came to light when Amy Griffin, an assistant head coach of women’s soccer at the University of Washington, began to notice that some of her current and former players, especially goalkeepers, had been diagnosed with cancer. According to CNN, “when the list began drawing attention, the Washington State Department of Health and researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health reached out to conduct an investigation into whether the cancer rate seen in Griffin’s list was unusual. The study, published last week, concluded it was not, and recommended that ‘people who enjoy soccer continue to play irrespective of the type of field surface.'”
However, according to CNN “the study wasn’t designed to identify whether exposure to tire crumbs caused cancer among some of the players. Rather, the investigation was to determine whether the cancer diagnoses were higher than would be expected and then qualify as a cluster.”
So, on one side we have the Washington State Department of Health who says that the cancer rates were not higher than expected. On the other side, we have a soccer coach who noticed that a lot of goalies who played on artificial turf were getting blood cancers. Neither opinion is conclusive on whether paying on a field of ground up tires is safe.
Yet, we come back to the question of whether you’d want your kid playing on used tires? The alternative is using a product like “Nike Field Turf” which is made from ground up shoes. According to NBC, it costs about 2% more than turf-rubber made from tires and contains consumer-friendly ingredients.
Of course, The Synthetic Turf Council, a lobbying group for the turf industry says tire rubber is a non-issue.
The truth is that there are no official studies linking turf made from tires to negative effects. Yet, there are the soccer players … and if you haven’t’ watched the ESPN segment on them, you should.
In many ways it seems a lot like CTE (concussions) with football players. After a hundred years, we are finally acknowledging that blows to the brain have extremely negative consequences. Are fields made from ground up tires a good idea? Should our kids be exposed to this? Should our 3 year olds be running around barefoot at birthday parties on this?
Yes, it’s true we live in the mountains and real grass is hard to come by in March. However, for a few percent more in cost, it seems there are better materials that we should be investing in for our fields.
We think the Basin Rec made mistake on this. We’re building a field for the next 10 years… why not build something that seems more safe, for only a little more cost. Wy not protect our kids from ingesting potentially carcinogenic substances?
In a town that thrives on athletics, we hope this choice doesn’t turn out horribly for someone.
Frankly, we can’t believe Summit County took the chance.
If you have 10 minutes, and a child, we’d recommend watching the ESPN story on this.