What can concerned parents do to safeguard children who play on crumb rubber surfaces?
Dr. Robert Wright, chair of the Dept. of Preventive Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City, offered this answer.
“Concerned parents should spring into action even before a crumb rubber field is installed. The most effective strategy is for parents to join with each other and also to form alliances with medical societies, nursing organizations, elected officials and anyone else in the community who is in position to raise vociferous opposition to the installation of these untested products.
“Once a field has been installed, parents can minimize their children’s risk by always making their children shower as soon as they return home from playing on the fields in order to remove any crumb rubber.
“A second step is to avoid playing on the field on very hot, sunny days when temperatures can reach dangerous levels.
“A third step is to meticulously clean any cuts or abrasions caused by the field, because there have been outbreaks of [staph bacteria] skin infections associated with such cuts and scrapes.”
Wright explained, “We are advising against the use of crumb rubber fields until safety is proven. This is because the product is made from recycled automobile tires, which are well known to contain metals and other toxic chemicals. Some components of tire rubber are linked to cancer and others are toxic to the nervous and other systems.
“The risks of exposure have not been fully studied, especially in the context of the wide range of potentially harmful chemicals, which are found in rubber tires. Ironically, if a field was filled with discarded tires it would be considered a hazardous waste site. The primary difference is that the tires were ground up in the crumb rubber field.”
Concord, MA, is considering putting Field Precautions warning signs at all synthetic turf fields. The proposed text was developed by the Concord Board of Health and includes four points.
The points include: Be aware that on hot days the temperature may be higher on synthetic turf fields than on natural turf. On hot days on all fields, use caution, take frequent breaks and increase hydration; After playing on field, wash hands and face before eating or drinking; Minimize potential for skin abrasions by wearing appropriate protective equipment and treat abrasions promptly to prevent potential infection; At end of play on synthetic turf fields, dust clothes and clean or remove shoes to avoid tracking crumb rubber off the field.