I know there have been lots of discussions over the years as to what is safer to play on real grass or artificial turf. Lots of talk about the newer artificial surfaces being just as safe as real grass. But all those discussions were largely based on the difference between the two as they related to injuries and wear and tear on the body.
In some of the discussions over the Argos moving to BMO on soccer boards there have been some suggestions that might mean needing to return to an artificial surface there eventually if the Argos end up chewing up the real grass. Now some of the emotional arguments against that on soccer boards have been silly but some have caused me to pause with concern.
Apparently there may be problems with all those black old tire bits that are embedded into artificial fields with some suggesting they may be causing cancer - especially among soccer goalies who are in constant contact with the stuff with their diving saves - hundreds a week between games and practices. There seems to be some evidence that there is a spike in cancer rates that may be related to their exposure to all the carcinogens that they know are in tires.
Should that not be raising some alarm bells among football players who play on it all the time and like goalies in soccer are often in direct contact when involved with tackles and blocks? Here is a link to one article that has me wondering how safe are these new artificial turf fields and should more studies be done on them and their potential harm they may be causing.[url=http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/how-safe-artificial-turf-your-child-plays-n220166]http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigati ... ys-n220166[/url]
Soccer coach Amy Griffin was in a Seattle hospital visiting a young goalie who was receiving chemotherapy when a nurse said something that made the hair on Griffin's neck stand up.
It was 2009. Two young female goalies Griffin knew had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Griffin, associate head coach for the University of Washington's women's soccer team, had started to visit the women and other athletes in local hospitals, helping them pass the time during chemo with war stories from her three decades of coaching.
That day, the nurse looked down at the woman Griffin was sitting with and said, "Don't tell me you guys are goalkeepers. You're the fourth goalkeeper I've hooked up this week."
Later, the young woman with the chemo needle in her arm would say, "I just have a feeling it has something to do with those black dots."
Artificial turf fields are now everywhere in the United States, from high schools to multi-million-dollar athletic complexes. As any parent or player who has been on them can testify, the tiny black rubber crumbs of which the fields are made -- chunks of old tires -- get everywhere. In players' uniforms, in their hair, in their cleats.
But for goalkeepers, whose bodies are in constant contact with the turf, it can be far worse. In practices and games, they make hundreds of dives, and each plunge sends a black cloud of tire pellets into the air. The granules get into their cuts and scrapes, and into their mouths. Griffin wondered if those crumbs - which have been known to contain carcinogens and chemicals - were making players sick.
"I've coached for 26, 27 years," she said. "My first 15 years, I never heard anything about this. All of a sudden it seems to be a stream of kids."
Since then, Griffin has compiled a list of 38 American soccer players -- 34 of them goalies - who have been diagnosed with cancer. At least a dozen played in Washington, but the geographic spread is nationwide. Blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia dominate the list.
No research has linked cancer to artificial turf. Griffin collected names through personal experience with sick players, and acknowledges that her list is not a scientific data set. But it's enough to make her ask whether crumb rubber artificial turf, a product that has been rolled out in tens of thousands of parks, playgrounds, schools and stadiums in the U.S., is safe for the athletes and kids who play on it. Others across the country are raising similar questions, arguing that the now-ubiquitous material, made out of synthetic fibers and scrap tire -- which can contain benzene, carbon black and lead, among other substances -- has not been adequately tested. Few studies have measured the risk of ingesting crumb rubber orally, for example.
NBC's own extensive investigation, which included a review of the relevant studies and interviews with scientists and industry professionals, was unable to find any agreement over whether crumb turf had ill effects on young athletes, or even whether the product had been sufficiently tested.
The Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, says that the evidence collected so far by scientists and state and federal agencies proves that artificial turf is safe.
"We've got 14 studies on our website that says we can find no negative health effects," said Dr. Davis Lee, a Turf Council board member. While those studies aren't "absolutely conclusive," he added, "There's certainly a preponderance of evidence to this point that says, in fact, it is safe."
Environmental advocates want the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to take a closer look. While both the CPSC and the EPA performed studies over five years ago, both agencies recently backtracked on their assurances the material was safe, calling their studies "limited." But while the EPA told NBC News in a statement that "more testing needs to be done," the agency also said it considered artificial turf to be a "state and local decision," and would not be commissioning further research.