By Henry Schwan
June 24. 2015 11:24AM
June 24. 2015 11:24AM
Dr. David Brown had a definitive answer Tuesday night for those concerned about artificial playing fields and children’s safety.
“You’re responsible,” Brown told parents at a public forum at Concord-Carlisle High School.
Brown is the director of public health toxicology at Environment & Human Health, Inc. in Westport, Connecticut, and he was one of four panelists who spoke about the potential health dangers of crumb rubber, which is at the root of a heated debate in Concord.
Grass Fields for Safe Sports hosted the forum because it believes crumb rubber – small pellets made from recycled tires - contains deadly toxins linked to cancer, and it wants them removed from the design plans for a new artificial turf football field that broke ground earlier this month at the high school.
Supporters of crumb rubber presented their position at a public information session at the high school on June 24, the following night, after this week’s Concord Journal had gone to press.
Tuesday night’s panel also included: Guive Mirfendereski, managing editor of Synturf.org; Rachel Massey, senior associate director and policy program manager at the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute; and Kurt Tramposch, an environmental health planner. About 100 people attended.
Opponents of crumb rubber want an organic infill for the new football field, such as cork or coconut husks.
However, when a parent asked the panel if any of the alternatives to crumb rubber have been successful, Brown said, “The problem is that we have to go back to the original problem of artificial turf, which is, it hasn’t been properly tested.”
“You have to start with what is in the product,” he added. “I’ve seen no evidence that anyone has done that (with alternative infill), and you shouldn’t put children on an untested product.”
“I agree with him,” Grass Fields for Safe Sports member Beverely Ridpath said after the forum. “If the stuff has not been tested, then we should go for grass, but is it possible for us to get those holes filled back in? I don’t know, we’re having a real hard time even stopping the crumb rubber. I just wish that the process had been more open from the beginning, and we had been better informed.”
Brown said all studies show that rubber, including crumb rubber, contains dangerous carcinogens.
Massey said, “If a chemical is a carcinogen, there is no safe threshold for exposure to that chemical… and any exposure to a carcinogen will have some effect on your lifetime possibility of developing cancer.”
Concord resident Tim Rose told the panel he was “irritated” by Brown’s remarks that implied past studies on crumb rubber have no value.
“(Brown) is absolutely right,” Rose said. “You can’t say (crumb rubber) is safe from those studies, but the studies measured things such as these carcinogen levels in the atmosphere with people playing on the fields, and when they measured those, they were below the regulatory limits that have been set by the government or the state. Those experiments are valid.”
Rose said he supports an alternative infill.
“That’s why I’m here,” he said.
It was announced that a representative from GeoTurf, a supplier of turf fields with organic infills, did not attend the forum because of a family obligation.
A Grass Fields for Safe Sports representative told parents that “there is still time to switch to an alternative infill, and the regional school committee can make the decision.”
When asked what he would tell the regional school committee, Brown said, “I would recommend they take the time to study it. It wouldn’t just be ‘call more people and talk to them.’ I would assemble a group who indeed know how to think about this health issue, and decide what sort of things are appropriate decisions.”
“If a group of physicians, for example, would come in and say to you, ‘We can’t find a way to do it safely.’ that would be a very important piece of information to have before you go anywhere.”
Follow Henry on Twitter @henrycojo.