According to Miles Moore’s article in the European Rubber Journal, the leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington has sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, asking 10 questions about what the agency knows about possible connections between recycled tire rubber athletic turf and cancer.US probe into safety of synthetic rubber turf

Meanwhile, the EPA has said that its scientists will act as technical advisors to a recently announced study by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to evaluate the possible chemical hazards presented by human exposure to crumb rubber.

The letter—signed by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.)—has been sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Oct. 23. Upton and Pallone are the chairman and ranking minority member of House Energy and Commerce; Shimkus and Tonko are chairman and ranking member of the committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

The letter has specifically cited two NBC News reports, aired on Oct. 8, 2014 and Oct. 1, 2015, which have told the stories of young female goalkeepers on soccer teams who have developed various forms of cancer after playing for years on athletic fields equipped with crumb rubber artificial turf.

1 US probe into safety of synthetic rubber turfAccoering to the letter “these stories and others raise questions among athletes and parents that crumb rubber on artificial turf athletic fields may present a pathway to exposure to one or more carcinogens”

Here are some of the questions submitted to McCarthy by the congressmen in the letter:

• Whether the EPA had conducted additional testing after its 2009 study of synthetic turf, which found no evidence of contaminants leaching from crumb rubber but also called for further study;

• Whether the EPA had coordinated with other federal agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, regarding their risk assessments of crumb rubber artificial turf;

• Whether the EPA has determined if chemicals in crumb rubber present an unreasonable risk to human health;

• Whether there was any distinct correlation between soccer-play and cancer, and, if so, if there were data indicating a minimum threshold for risk; and

• Whether there were any industry standards setting limits for exposure to crumb rubber.

A response by McCarthy to their letter is requested by Nov. 6.

This is not the first time that leaders of House Energy & Commerce have raised questions about the safety of crumb rubber athletic turf. Shortly after the first NBC News story aired, Pallone wrote the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, requesting an official study of the potential health risks emanating from recycled tire crumb rubber used in athletic turf.

Shortly before Energy & Commerce sent the letter, the EPA released details of the aid it plans to give to the OEHHA in its study of crumb rubber athletic turf. The three-year, $2.86 million study has begun in June 2015 with a commission from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). The study, according to the OEHHA, will culminate in a report to CalRecycle summarizing the data and evaluating potential health hazards.

According to an EPA statement from Oct. 22, “scientists from EPA will serve in a technical advisory role with the design, implementation and interpretation of the studies”.

“By working with the state of California, and other federal and state agencies, we will be able to identify critical remaining research gaps and optimize research efforts, while conserving resources and eliminating the duplication of activities,” the agency said. Also, according to EPA, the studies that are ongoing now are supposed to deliver results more quickly and cost-effectively to communities that are asking questions, so they can make decisions that are best for them. These results could also be shared with other communities around the country in order to make the best decisions for public health. The EPA has also said that it will continue discussions and meetings with other government agencies including the CPSC, as well as with industry and stakeholder groups.

Organizations representing the synthetic turf industry—including the Safe Fields Alliance, the Recycled Rubber Council and the Rubber Manufacturers Association—determinedly defend the safety of recycled tire crumb rubber in artificial turf. They point out, that not one among dozens of studies has ever uncovered a causative link between crumb rubber and disease. The organizations also say they welcome further third-party studies to decide the issue conclusively.

Article and image source: European Rubber Journal