Newer artificial turf fields were developed to simulate natural grass fields by using infill material to make the fields softer and by adding plastic grass on the surface. Some fields use infill material made from ground-up tires, called "crumb rubber", and this type of infill has caused concern about potential chemical releases to the environment.
Why is artificial turf used?
Artificial turf fields have become a popular alternative to natural grass fields in many Connecticut towns. The advantages of these fields include less maintenance costs, ability to withstand intense use and no need for pesticides.
What is "crumb rubber"?
Tire crumb, a form of “ground or crumb rubber," is produced by processing used tires to a smaller and uniform size through shredding, grinding and sorting. Tire crumb is used in road construction, manufacturing of new molded rubber products (e.g. traffic cones, car bumpers, and garden hoses) and a number of athletic and recreational applications (e.g. sports fields and play surfaces), including use in artificial turf athletic fields as "infill" between turf fibers.
What chemicals are in crumb rubber?
The crumb rubber usually comes from recycled tires that contain man made compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Concerns have been raised about potential chemical exposures coming from the crumb rubber infill commonly used in these fields.
How can people be exposed to the chemicals in the crumb rubber?
To date, studies on the release of chemicals from crumb rubber have reported very low concentration of chemicals. Although exposure to these chemicals is expected to be low, the primary ways that people can potentially be exposed include:
- Incidentally ingesting small amounts by putting fingers in the mouth or not washing hands before eating or after playing on the fields
- Breathing in small particles of crumb rubber or vapors released from the fields
- Direct skin contact
Have any studies shown health effects with exposure to crumb rubber chemicals?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that current information from a number of tire crumb studies does not show an elevated health risk from playing on fields with artificial turf or tire crumbs. These studies include a 2010 Connecticut Department of Public Health study that was published in 2011 (see below). There is still uncertainty, however, and additional investigation is warranted.
Where Can I Get More Information?
Information from State and Federal Governments:
Peer Reviewed Journal Publications
- Simcox NJ, Bracker A, et al. Synthetic Turf Field Investigation in Connecticut. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues, 74:17, 1133-1149. 2011.
- Ginsberg G, Toal B, et al. Human Health Risk Assessment of Synthetic Turf Fields Based Upon Investigation of Five Fields in Connecticut, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues, 74:17, 1150-1174. 2011.
- Ginsberg G, Toal B, et al. Benzothiazole Toxicity Assessment in Support of Synthetic Turf Field Human Health Risk Assessment. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues, 74:17, 1175-1183. 2011.
Report and Fact Sheet
- Risk Assessment of Artificial Turf Fields (Final Report) Four state agency reports from the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC), The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), the Departments of Public Health (DPH), and Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Final peer reviewed compilation report from the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE)
Environmental Protection Agency
- Highsmith, R., K. W. Thomas, and R. W. Williams. A Scoping-Level Field Monitoring Study of Synthetic Turf Fields and Playgrounds. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-09/135, 2009.
New York City
New York State
Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Hefa Cheng, Yuanan Hu, and Martin Reinhard.. Environmental and Health Impacts of Artificial Turf: A Review. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 48, 2114-2129.
Sunduk Kim, Ji-Yeon Yang, Ho-Hyun, Kim, et al. Health Risk Assessment of Lead Ingestion Exposure by Particle Sizes in Crumb Rubber on Artificial Turf Considering Bioavailability. Environ Health Toxicol. 2012; 27: e2012005.
Menichini E, Abate V, et al. Artificial-turf playing fields: contents of metals, PAHs, PCBs, PCDDs and PCDFs, inhalation exposure to PAHs and related preliminary risk assessment. Sci Total Environ. 2011 Nov 1;409 (23):4950-7.
Pavilonis BT, Weisel CP, et al. Bioaccessibility and Risk of Exposure to Metals and SVOCs in Artificial Turf Field Fill Materials and Fibers. Risk Anal. 2013 Jun 11.
Schiliro T, Traversi D, et al. Artificial Turf Football Fields: Environmental and Mutagenicity Assessment. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2013) 64:1–11.
van Rooij Joost and Jongeneelen Frans J. Hydroxypyrene in urine of football players after playing on artificial sports field with tire crumb infill. Int Arch Occup Environ Health (2010) 83:105–110.