Is artificial turf exposure contributing to cancer?


Katie Schoettle, Writer

Kids all over the world are spending many hours on turf fields each week. Getting turf stuck in their shoes, clothes, car, and even your skin. Experts say more children have been getting diagnosed with cancer than ever before. This leads to the question, “What exactly are the effects of turf?” A lot of work is being put into this research. Turf comes from tires.  Today’s fields typically contain the equivalent of at least 20,000 ground up tires. The black dots in turf contain mercury, benzene and arsenic. Scientist don’t know that crumb rubber turf causes cancer, but they also do not know that it is safe.

“I’ve been at the University of Washington for 21 years,” Amy Griffin said, who is the associate head coach of women’s soccer at the University of Washington in Seattle. “And for 15 years I saw nothing. I knew no one with lymphoma. But now, personally, I know six people who’ve had cancer.” She now has a list of 230 soccer players, nearly all goalkeepers, who have played on artificial turf and developed cancers. Having turf is a great idea, but why didn’t they do more research before they installed it and starting using turf on a regular basis? It would have been in the government, medical field and industry interests to have sorted this out a long time ago.

It would be a shame if kids stopped playing a sport they love just because of this news. “The biggest problem would be if kids stopped playing and exercising over fear of cancer,” Griffin said. Children could hear about this news and immediately think they could get cancer. They make up some excuse not to go to practice. It is all about the cleanliness, take off shin guards and soccer cleats outside and wash off when you get home. The study was not built to identify whether exposure to trashed tires caused cancer to some of the players. Rather, the investigation was to see whether the cancer diagnoses was higher than expected and the qualify as a cluster.

Goalkeepers have found to be the most at risk, because they get it in their sides, hips, elbows, mouth and abrasions from sliding on the turf. Not just the black dots, but all the dust and particles that come up from impacts. Sometimes they are so small you do not even see them and you can even inhale and eat it without even noticing. “Just in a 10-minute warm up, our keepers will hit the ground anywhere from 50-100 times.” said Griffin.

Now, cancer is not a state of form to be taking lightly, no matter what side of the experiment you are on. The sports turf industry should also welcome any testing that people want them to do. “I have played soccer for 6 years now, I am a right wing and I do worry a little about cancer even though I am not a goalie. My team and I have talked to our goalie about this and he says this has no bother to him and if he gets cancer it happens for a reason. Soccer is a rough sport but do not let this ruin your dreams, push through it,” said Cesar Arellano a former Battlefield High School student.

In conclusion, studies do not 100% know the cause of this cancer. Soccer players play on turf so they can refer to that. Hopefully, scientist can get to the end of this before more people in the books are written down for this sickness. All sports players deserve to be kept on the field for as long as they can. Let’s make that happen!