Washington lawmakers on Nov. 6 called for an independent federal investigation into crumb rubber, citing lingering health questions surrounding the small rubber shreds used as artificial turf.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who is leading the effort, first became concerned about the artificial surface when his children were playing on the crumb-rubber athletic fields.
“I became concerned as a parent, as much as a public official, 10 years ago, and at first was somewhat skeptical, but now very firmly believe that we need an authoritative, real study about what’s in these fields,” Blumenthal told ABC News.
The little pellets made from ground-up discarded tires are used as turf on more than 10,000 athletic fields and playgrounds around the country, according to the Synthetic Turf Council.
World Cup soccer champion Abby Wambach has also voiced serious concerns.
“What’s in those little rubber pellets?” she asked in a recent speech.
Some say crumb rubber contains potential dangerous carcinogens leftover from the tires. On the field, some players say the pellets easily get into their mouths and eyes, leaving them wondering about possible health effects.
The industry maintains there is no known link between crumb rubber and cancer.
“We serve as a clearinghouse for the more than 50 studies that address various concerns on synthetic turf, including those conducted by local, state and federal agencies,” the Synthetic Turf Council said in a statement to ABC.
“In each case, results have shown no elevated health risks associated with synthetic turf. This is echoed in news reports that acknowledge no research has directly linked crumb rubber to cancer.”
The industry, however, backs additional research.
“We have always been supportive of any new or expanded research that addresses the desire for additional information,” Synthetic Turf Council President Al Garver said. “Beyond being supportive of further research, we are happy to assist in any way to help provide further definitive proof that synthetic turf is a safe and tremendously beneficial product for schools and communities.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also believes it’s worth taking a closer took.
“There is no evidence yet that’s making these links. But that doesn’t mean we’re dismissing the concerns,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently told ESPN, which, like ABC News, is owned by Disney Co.
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