MEDWAY - After the Board of Health last month considered a moratorium on artificial turf fields but ultimately let the issue go, a resident petition is seeking to gather enough signatures for a Special Town Meeting warrant article.
A petition organized by resident Tracy Stewart seeks to place a temporary ban on the “engineering, planning, construction or installation of any synthetic turf” surface using tire-derived material.
At issue is crumb rubber, which is essentially thousands of pieces of ground-up rubber tires that act as dirt and cushioning on artificial turf fields.
Stewart, in her petition, said the crumb rubber used on three turf fields at Medway High School came from Liberty Tire, which also supplies the material for a field in Concord, which passed a similar moratorium earlier this month.
The petition comes two months after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Centers for Disease Control announced a multi-agency plan to study the material after several legislators wrote to the CPSC asking for further study.
Stewart presented her petition to the Board of Selectmen Monday and said she has gathered 164 signatures for the warrant article. Selectman Dennis Crowley, while applauding Stewart’s work, asked her why she isn’t waiting until the results of the federal study come out, especially as the town is planning to upgrade and improve several recreational areas and parks in town.
Crumb rubber and artificial turf, which has been used on playgrounds, has not yet been discussed as a component of the project.
Stewart replied that if the study comes back with findings that link crumb rubber to adverse health effects, the town would then have to “tear it all up.”
According to Town Administrator Michael Boynton, Stewart will need 200 signatures to call a Special Town Meeting and 100 to get the article on the warrant, but both sets of required signatures can come from the same pool.
Selectmen then have 45 days to call a Special Town Meeting, he said.
Artificial turf and crumb rubber have been in national headlines for several years, partly due to the research of a soccer coach for the University of Washington, Amy Griffin, who has compiled a long list of former athletes who have developed cancer after playing on the fields.
Several public health agencies have said that there is no definitive link between the material and cancer, but the EPA suggested in a press release announcing the study in February that comprehensive studies are needed for the conclusion.
“Concerns have been raised by the public about the safety of recycled tire crumb used in playing fields and playgrounds in the United States,” the EPA said. “Limited studies have not shown an elevated health risk from playing on fields with tire crumb, but the existing studies do not comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks from exposure to tire crumb.”
Zachary Comeau can be reached at 508-634-7556 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ZComeau_MDN.