MEDWAY - Before it considers requiring signs warning of potential health risks to be placed on artificial turf fields in town, the Board of Health is reviewing information received from a group of concerned residents.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the board met with several residents who have been asking the town to do more research into the crumb rubber infill of the artificial turf fields.
Crumb rubber, which is essentially tiny pieces of recycled tires, provides stability and cushioning to the synthetic turf that was recently installed on two new fields at the high school. That $4.2 million project included replacing the turf on Hanlon Field, which was also filled with crumb rubber.
At the meeting, the group of residents asked the board to consider requiring signs at fields warning of the health risks some have associated with turf and crumb rubber.
Tracy Stewart, one of the residents involved, referenced signs at fields in other communities in different states that warn of harmful chemicals in the crumb rubber and of rising temperatures on the fields. Stewart and the group of residents provided 31 pages of information to the board, including a list of at least four chemicals in crumb rubber that are known carcinogens.
The temperature on the fields, she added, can reach over 130 degrees, causing the release of harmful chemicals in crumb rubber.
The concern comes after an NBC News story aired in October based on the testimony of an associate head coach for the University of Washington’s women’s soccer team, Amy Griffin. In the report, Griffin said she discovered “a stream of kids” who have played on artificial turf with crumb rubber infill have been diagnosed with cancer. She compiled a list of 38 American soccer players who have developed blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia.
Health Agent Stephanie Bacon said the board is reviewing the information provided by the residents before it even considers any action.
“It’s all stuff that the board has to definitely sit down and go through,” she said.
Bacon said more research has to be done, as there have been no credible scientific studies linking crumb rubber and artificial turf to cancer to “hang your hat on.”
“Everything is inconclusive,” she said. “Even when people have spent a lot of time on studies having to do with synthetic turf, there are so many bridges and gaps in the data.”
Stewart, however, said there is “definitely” information that proves the temperature on the fields can escalate to well above 100 degrees on warm days.
“Based on that alone, at the very least, the town should be posting something,” she said. “I think we owe that to parents and children of our community so they have the option to make a decision for their children.”