Sports advocates here in Georgia and elsewhere have probably heard of the trend toward using artificial turf fields made up of small pellets of crumb rubber, which comes from old recycled tires. Crumb rubber is often used for football and soccer fields as it provides cushioning for players when they fall, but there are also concerns about the toxicity of the rubber pellets.
In some areas, there is a growing opposition to use of crumb rubber because of the potential health risks to athletes, though there is debate as to how legitimate the concern is. Some municipalities have debated putting a moratorium on artificial turf. At the same time, use of synthetic turf is rapidly growing in some areas in order to support expansion of athletics programs. According to the both the EPA and a Georgia-based group turf industry group, the number of fields has more than doubled since 2009, and crumb rubber is used in nearly all of them.
As we mentioned, there are health concerns with artificial turf. The EPA has acknowledged the concern, but has said that research pointing to toxicity is inconclusive and that more research just needs to be done. At this point, there is no restriction in the use of crumb rubber for turf. It isn’t clear whether the situation will change anytime soon.
If research continues to build and show that artificial turf is indeed toxic and unsafe for use, the question will then become how to regulate it and to see to it that those who are harmed are adequately compensated for their injuries.