Monday, February 13, 2017

Health Impacts of Artificial Turf

Artificial tire crumb infill.
Artificial turf fields commonly consist of infill made up of ground-up rubber tires, called tire crumbs. As students, athletes, & facilities members receive direct exposure to the recycled rubber pellets, it is of the utmost importance to understand the health implications, if any, associated with the infill.

Tires and tire crumbs contain various hazardous substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-VOCs, heavy metals, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). However, there is less unanimity towards the exposure potential and associated human risk. Studies that have researched human health risk address three main exposure pathways: dermal, ingestion, inhalation of tire dust.

In a report and study done by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), assuming periodic exposures to turf fields over a 3-5 week period, a hazard index projected acute and cancerous risk[1]. However, three other studies, namely the Pediatric Study of Tire Crumb Use on Playgrounds, Canadian Evaluation of Hazard Assessment of tire crumbs for Use on Public Playgrounds, and The French Study showed no cause for concern of artificial turf fields in outdoor settings.

Other pertinent considerations include the increased heat absorption of artificial turf opposed to natural turf, contributing to heat stress and discomfort to users and spectators[2]. Awareness of groundwater contamination is additionally important. Depending on the soil pH and size of tire crumbs, different chemicals leach from the tire. Overall, leaching rates decrease with larger tire crumbs, pre-washing of tires, and neutral soil and rainwater pH[3]. Those allergic to latex should also take precautionary actions.

CaƱada and Skyline both opted for organic infill made of
 coconut fibers and cork in some of their turf fields.
Health concerns have been raised over the safety of tire crumbs in turf fields, but limited research on the actual toxicity is insufficient to form any conclusions. The magnitude of the risks are insignificant or indeterminate for VOCs, heavy metals, or organic contaminants. Based on available information, tire crumbs do not pose as a public health concern[4].

[1] Brown, D. R. (2007). Artificial Turf. North Haven: Environment & Human Health, Inc.

[2]Health, N. Y. (2012, August). Fact Sheet: Crumb-Rubber Infilled Synthetic Turf Athletic Fields. Retrieved from Department of Health:

[3] Selbes, M. e. (2015). Leaching of DOC, DN, and Inorganic Constituents From Scrap Tires. Chemosphere, 617-23.

[4] Cheng, H., Hu, Y., & Reinhard, M. (2014). Environmental and health impacts of artificial turf: a review. US National Library of Medicine, 2114-29.

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