crumb rubber


Producers of crumb rubber used in sports field turf applications are facing accusations that the material is causing health problems.

Using crumb rubber as a “shock absorber” on artificial turf playing fields has been one of the fastest growing markets involving crumb rubber over the past two decades.

Although using the material has been largely successful both for crumb rubber producers and for synthetic turf fields installers, some of the athletes who play on the fields and their parents have made some serious accusations regarding the effects of crumb rubber on public health. Since 2014 both victims and parents have searched for connections between the crumb rubber used in some fields and forms of cancers developed in young athletes.

The increased media exposure of the topic led to its inclusion on the agenda of the ISRI 2015 Convention & Exposition in April in Vancouver. According to speakers at the convention, a theory formulated by the University of Washington women’s soccer coach Amy Griffin, suspects that there are linkages between the crumb rubber used in the playing fields and lymphoma – a type of blood cell cancer.

However, a report from NBC News (can be found at has stated that there has been no research linking artificial turf to any type of cancer. NBC News has further elaborated in their report, that neither any relevant studies, nor interviews with scientists or industry professionals, have managed to indicate any bad effects of crumb rubber on young athletes.

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Afterwards NBC’s report has been repeated also by other media. Rick Doyle of the Synthetic Turf Council (STC), Atlanta, spoke at the 2015 ISRI convention that similar unsubstantiated allegations regarding crumb rubber has been made also back in 2008 and have subsequently been “debunked”. Terry Leveille of TL & Associates, Fair Oaks, California, has been called by the STC in 2014 and 2015 to fend off in court the charges, when necessary.

At the 2015 ISRI convention Leveille said that after Griffin’s allegations four states have introduced bills to start regulating the usage of crumb rubber in turfs. The STC and Leveille have managed to quickly defuse the situation in Virginia and Minnesota, the New York legislature had “a comprehensive public health study” on the use of crumb rubber on playing fields and the fourth state – where STC is facing a critical struggle – is California, where some legislators have been requesting a multimillion-dollar study in order to prove the safety of crumb rubber.

In the beginning of 2016 California still had not declared statewide suspension on the usage of the material, because the study was not funded, as the Senate failed to pass the first version of the bill. However, the LA Unified School District had already declared that it will discontinue applying crumb rubber to playing fields.

According to Leveille, all results from conducted since 2000 until now have pointed to “undetectable or insignificant” levels of potentially harmful substances. During this time the Synthetic Turf Council has been attempting to hold back the proposed suspension on the usage of crumb rubber on playing fields in California.

Leveille assured tire recyclers that the STC continues to support crumb rubber as “the infill of choice of 98 percent of installations”. He also called all the allegations unsubstantial and a threat to the whole artificial turf industry.

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Opponents of the usage of crumb rubber on playing grounds have additionally also contacted members of Congress, the U.S. EPA and other federal agencies and bureaus and asked them to conduct an updated and comprehensive study on the potential health side effects of crumb rubber on playing fields as a cooperative effort between three federal agencies.

In February 2016 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. EPA – “the leading federal health and safety agencies” – have announced the coordination of their efforts for the research of “the safety of recycled tire crumb”.

The chairman of the CPSC Elliott Kaye identified as a core focus of their study the goal “to identify what is in recycled tire crumb”. Precisely not knowing the ingredients of crumb rubber has been the cause for concern among the critics of the substances, because tire manufacturers have used their patented formulas as a competitive advantage against other tire producers. Crumb rubber critics focus on the numerous and widely spread “recipes” for tires, containing various chemicals and metals, and say that heavy metals can enter the stream of crumb rubber.

Environmental and Human Health Inc. (EHHI) from North Haven, Connecticut, said that the metals released from the various samples analyzed are very different, which reflects the lack of standardization in the shredded scrap tires. According to EHHI if “no two samples” are the same, that undermines all “‘safety’ studies” until now.

A common practice among European tire recyclers was to take samples from daily production of crumb rubber. The samples of one working week were mixed together and sent to a testing laboratory for monitoring.

According to critics, greater transparency and more complete disclosure of the “ingredients” in a tire are crucial for the end-of-life products to be handled properly. NBC News has reported that the federal agencies have developed an action plan of high importance for the testing of different types of crumb rubber in order to determine their chemical composition.

The agencies have jointly stated, that once they better understand the chemical compounds of tire crumb rubber, they’d be able to “understand better the potential health effects of those chemicals”.

In response to the agencies’ announcement, both ISRI and STC have shared their conviction that the materials will be esteemed safe for usage.



In February 2016 the STC has said they welcome the agencies’ additional research. They also added in a statement: “All of these developments are positive for our industry as we continue to educate the public regarding synthetic turf systems.”

ISRI Vice President of Marketing and Communications Bob Ensinger wrote in May 19, 2016:

“The reality is that all of the scientific studies to date (more than 90 scientific studies from leading universities, toxicologists and government agencies) have found no significant health risk associated with artificial (synthetic) turf with recycled rubber infill.”

“Unfortunately,” Ensinger continued, “the stirring of public fear in this issue has caused some state legislatures and local officials to try and ban the use of crumb rubber infill in synthetic turf.”

ISRI is confident that as the debate develops, unless something completely different from all previous studies is revealed by research, the proposed restrictions against crumb rubber can be refuted.

Article source: Recycling Today