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By Denise Valenzuela

Posted in

State of Connecticut – Department of Public Health

Since many Connecticut towns have installed or are considering artificial turf fields an elevated cancer risk would be an important consideration. However, this news story is still based upon very preliminary information and does not change CTDPH’s position that outdoor artificial turf fields do not represent an elevated health risk. The Connecticut Department of Public Health has evaluated the potential exposures and risks from athletic use of artificial turf fields. Our study of 5 fields in Connecticut in 2010-2011 was a comprehensive investigation of releases from the fields during active play. This study was conducted by the University of CT Health Center and was peer-reviewed by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

The study did not find a large amount of vapor or particle release from the fields confirming prior reports from Europe and the US. We put these exposures into a public health context by performing a risk assessment. Our risk assessment did not find elevated cancer risk.

The news story suggests soccer players and especially goalies may have an elevated cancer risk from playing on artificial turf fields. This is based upon anecdotal observations of a university soccer coach. The coach is developing a list of soccer players who have contracted cancer. However, the types of cancer are undocumented and so it is impossible to say whether they represent a common effect and there has been no reporting on how long the goalies played on artificial turf fields to see if there was plausible exposure and latency.

Documentation of an increased rate in soccer players would require an epidemiological study in which the total number who play on turf fields in a given region was also known so that a cancer rate could be established and compared to those that do not play on artificial turf fields. The current news report does not constitute epidemiological evidence and thus is very preliminary.

Our risk assessment did cover carcinogens that are known to be in recycled tires and the crumb rubber used to cushion fields. Once again, we found there to be very little exposure of any substances, carcinogenic or not, in the vapors and dust that these fields generate under active use, summer conditions. Background levels of chemicals in urban and suburban air from heating sources and automobile traffic are much more significant sources of airborne carcinogens. The fact that we sampled 5 fields (4 outdoor and 1 indoor) of different ages and composition suggests that the results can be generalized to other fields, a conclusion supported by the fact that results were similar to what was found in California, USEPA and European studies.