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Bill looks to ban ‘crumb rubber’ turf discontinued by LAUSD

Craig Clough | January 6, 2015

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A synthetic “crumb rubber” athletic field. (Photo: National Recreation and Park Assoc.)

A new state senate bill would ban the installation of any new school athletic fields or playgrounds that contain “crumb rubber” synthetic material until a full study is done on the substance.

After lead was discovered at some LA Unified preschool playgrounds, the district stopped building new crumb rubber fields in 2009 and removed the substance from 54 preschools, although it still has some crumb rubber athletic fields that predate the ban, according to KCET. The lead content was below the level considered harmful, but the district later filed lawsuits against several turf companies that it said wrongly sold it crumb rubber containing lead and settled out of court, according to the story.

Crumb rubber fields, which are made from recycled tires, use the substance to act as a sort of synthetic dirt for extra cushion. The material may be linked to to serious illness in children, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jerry Hill, a San Mateo Democrat. His bill, SB 47, introduced last month, would ban any public or private school from building new crumb rubber fields until 2018 so a study can be completed.

According to a press release issued by Hill, “Concerns have mounted about chemical compounds contained in recycled rubber tires as an increasing number of young athletes have developed leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and testicular, prostate and other forms of cancer.”

The health concerns were highlighted in an October report by NBC News, which pointed to evidence that soccer goalies may be at a higher risk of cancer compared with regular soccer players, due to the increased amount to time they spend diving into the synthetic turf. The story said no government study has found a link between crumb rubber and adverse health effects, but the EPA said more research was needed. (See the attached video of the story below.)

Hill’s bill would require the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, in consultation with other state agencies, to conduct a study to identify possible health risks posed by crumb rubber and be completed by July 1, 2017.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our children aren’t being harmed by materials used to make their fields and playgrounds,” Hill said in a statement.

In December, LA Unified issued a press release about crumb rubber, which stated that the district had removed crumb rubber from all of its preschools and any future district fields in consultation with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) after the Centers for Disease Control issued an advisory about possible lead in crumb rubber in 2008.

The release also stated, “Recent news reports have focused additional attention on health and safety concerns related to artificial turf fields and crumb rubber, although no specific health-based directives have been issued. We are following LACDPH’s recent findings that no warnings or restrictions for the use of fields with crumb rubber are required at this time”

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