WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) sent a letter to Robin Ikeda, Acting Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), to express his concern regarding the use of recycled rubber tire crumbs in synthetic turf fields and the potential health risks that they pose. Pallone, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, asked the agency to conduct an official study to examine what effects exposure to the chemicals in crumb rubber may have on athletes who play on turf fields and come into contact with crumb rubber on a regular basis.
“Crumb rubber has been known to contain carcinogens and chemicals, but there is an astounding lack of information on how this product affects our health,” said Congressman Pallone. “And yet, we send our young kids off to soccer practice and football practice to play on turf fields made of this very substance. The fact that crumb rubber has become so prevalent and that we still know so little about potential health risks it poses is troubling. More research must be done to protect the safety of public health.”
A recent report done by NBC News highlighted 38 cases of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and other cancers in American soccer players who have played on turf fields containing crumb rubber. While the report acknowledged that the compiled list of cases does not amount to a scientific study, the potential link is disconcerting.
In his letter to the ATSDR, Pallone stressed the need for more research to be done to determine whether repeated exposure to crumb rubber increases the risk of lymphoma, leukemia and other blood cancers. Specifically, he called for more data to be made available in order to properly evaluate the adverse health effects that crumb rubber may have on young athletes, who are especially susceptible to chemical exposures.
The full text of the letter is below:
October 9, 2014
Robin M. Ikeda
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
4770 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30341
Dear Acting Director Ikeda,
I write today regarding the usage of recycled rubber tire crumbs in synthetic turf athletic fields in the United States. A recent report has highlighted that a number of cases of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and other blood cancers have appeared in women athletes who have also played on turf fields containing crumb rubber.
It is clear that more data is needed to evaluate the risks that exist from exposure to crumb rubber in athletic turf and its effect on human health. Rubber tires often contain numerous chemicals considered carcinogens, including benzene, arsenic and phthalates, among others. Another question that remains is whether exposure to these harmful carcinogens could be amplified when tires are ground into tiny particles and athletes come into contact with the material on a regular basis.
Given that children and adolescents, who are particularly vulnerable to chemical exposures because of their size and are predominant users of athletic fields across the country, additional study of this issue is needed. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s Principles of Pediatric Environmental Health, “Beginning before conception and persisting throughout childhood, children are often more susceptible to environmental toxicants compared to adults…[and] usually have increased exposures per kilogram of body weight, compared to adults.”
As the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the co-chair of the Congressional Recycling Caucus, I believe more research must be done to evaluate the risks of exposure to chemicals in crumb rubber and its effect on human health. As such, I respectfully request that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry conduct a study to determine if human exposure to recycled rubber tire crumbs in synthetic turf athletic fields increases the risk of lymphoma, leukemia and other blood cancers.
I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter and look forward to your response.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress