Blumenthal, Nelson Ask White House for Comprehensive Crumb Rubber Turf Study

(Hartford, CT) – With concerns mounting about artificial turf athletic fields and playgrounds made of crumb rubber, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)--two top Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee-- today asked President Barack Obama to initiate a comprehensive federal-led study into the potential health risks posed by the surfaces.

In a letter to the president, Blumenthal and Nelson said the possible correlation between crumb rubber and cancer suggested by recent reports warrants further scrutiny.

“Given that millions of children and young athletes play on crumb rubber synthetic surfaces every day, this correlation with cancer cannot be ignored,” the lawmakers wrote.

The senators cited research from University of Washington soccer coach Amy Griffin, who found 153 reported cancer cases involving athletes who spent significant periods of time playing on crumb rubber turf.   Of those cases, 124 were soccer players.

“We believe that a more comprehensive federal study on this matter, one that draws not only from the public safety expertise of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), but from the public health and environmental expertise of agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency, would more fully inform the public on any potential public health or safety impacts associated with crumb rubber,” the senators’ letter continued.

Today’s call to action is not the first time the two senators have pressed the federal government to take a lead role in investigating crumb rubber turf.   In November, the lawmakers asked the CPSC to conduct an independent federal investigation.  The CPSC informed them that it planned to work closely with a California-led investigation into possible health risks associated with crumb rubber but stopped short of committing to an independent investigation.  The EPA has also recently said it plans to assist California in its investigation. 

Below is the text of the senators’ letter to the president.  Click here for a pdf of the letter.

Dear Mr. President:

We write to request that your administration spearhead a comprehensive study and assessment of the safety of artificial turf surfaces infilled with “crumb rubber.” 

Crumb rubber consists of recycled scrap tires grounded into small particles, which are then incorporated into the synthetic turf as infill.  These artificial surfaces have been installed in playgrounds and sports fields all across the country.  Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that these surfaces may pose serious health risks, including cancer, to individuals who come into frequent contact with them.  As such, we believe this issue warrants scrutiny from U.S. government agencies with expertise in public health and consumer safety.

The existing body of knowledge on the safety of crumb rubber is incomplete.  Nonetheless, one disturbing report finds that there may be a correlation between crumb rubber and cancer.  Specifically, according to University of Washington soccer coach Amy Griffin, and as reported by ESPN, there are now 153 reported cancer cases involving athletes who spent significant periods of time playing on synthetic turf with crumb rubber infill.  Of these cases, 124 of the athletes are soccer players, 85 of whom played goalie.  Given that millions of children and young athletes play on crumb rubber synthetic surfaces every day, this correlation with cancer cannot be ignored.

Last November, we wrote a letter to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Elliot Kaye urging the Commission to initiate an independent investigation on the safety of crumb rubber turf.  According to Chairman Kaye, the CPSC will be working with the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to determine the possible health risks that crumb rubber poses. 

This is a laudable effort, and we appreciate the CPSC’s response.  However, we believe that a more comprehensive federal study on this matter, one that draws not only from the public safety expertise of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but from the public health and environmental expertise of agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency, would more fully inform the public on any potential public health or safety impacts associated with crumb rubber.  Accordingly, we ask that your administration coordinate a comprehensive initiative that effectively utilizes all of the relevant agencies that can provide insight on the health and safety crumb rubber.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.

Sincerely,

Bill Nelson                                          
Ranking Member 

Richard Blumenthal
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Consumer Protection,
Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security

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