News

Hazards bill urges study of synthetic turf, including Palo Alto's

Sen. Jerry Hill's law would examine health effects of recycled tire-based playing fields

Potentially hazardous synthetic turf that's being targeted in a health bill by state Sen. Jerry Hill is used on some City of Palo Alto and school district playing fields, officials have confirmed.

On Dec. 17, Hill introduced Senate Bill 47, which would require the state Office of Environmental Health Assessment to conduct a comprehensive study of the effects of several chemicals released from turf made out of ground, recycled tires, also known as crumb rubber. The bill would significantly expand a 2010 Environmental Health Assessment study that identified 30 different volatile organic compounds in air samples emanating from crumb-rubber turf and playground surfaces that use the material.

Gunn High School has the turf on its football field and baseball infield, as does Palo Alto High School on its football field, baseball infield and El Camino soccer field, said Bob Golton, manager of Palo Alto Unified School District Strong Schools Bond.

The turf has three layers: a bottom layer of silica sand, a middle layer that is a mixture of sand and crumb rubber, and a top layer composed of polyethylene-blend fibers and crumb rubber. The fibers are meant to replicate blades of grass, while the infill acts as a cushion, he said.

The City of Palo Alto also has crumb-rubber playing fields at the Stanford Palo Alto Playing Fields (El Camino Real and Page Mill Road) and at Cubberley Community Center, according to Daren Anderson, manager of the city's Open Space, Parks and Golf division.

Many of Palo Alto's playgrounds also have rubber play surfacing. The latter is comprised of a cushion made of recycled tire rubber and a decorative wear layer of Ethylene Propylene Diene monomer) or TPV (Thermal plastic vulcanized) granules. It is one of the best surfaces for ADA accessibility, he added.

The city plans to replace the Stanford Palo Alto Playing Fields this June and Cubberley's in 2019 with an alternative synthetic-turf product, he said. El Camino Park, which is undergoing a renovation this year, will have synthetic turf installed, but it will not be crumb rubber.

The average lifespan for a synthetic field is about eight to 10 years, and the fields will be replaced within that time span, he said.

Golton said the Gunn and Paly fields were installed between 2008 and 2010. The district does not have any plans to replace them.

Of the compounds identified in air samples in the state's 2010 study, 14 volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, came solely from the crumb-rubber fields. The others were also found above natural turf (which were used as "control" air samples).

The 14 chemicals measured were not found consistently on all of the artificial fields, the study noted. Researchers ultimately focused on seven chemicals for potential hazardous effects from acute or chronic exposure: 2-Propanol; Cyclohexane; Toluene; m, p, o-xylenes; Isopropylbenzene; 4-Ethyltoluene; and 1, 2, 4-Trimethylbenzene.

State officials have so far concluded that the amount of off-gassing and inhaled particle size did not arise to the level of a human hazard.

But the research had a number of gaps and inconsistencies, they noted.

The study was limited to just four artificial fields. And it did not look at heavy metals, which might be inhaled, touch people's skin or get into abrasions during play. Researchers also found little consistency in the types of chemicals from field to field, perhaps because of differences in the rubber between products, they said.

Hill's bill would seek to answer those and other health-related questions. SB 47 would require a study of at least 20 synthetic-turf fields and playgrounds throughout the state. And the bill calls for the examination of many heavy metals, such as arsenic, barium, chromium, lead and mercury.

Researchers would also analyze exposure to chemicals including aromatic hydrocarbons, acetone, benzene and naphthalene. They would examine effects based on the cumulative length of play, whether children potentially ingest the materials and the potential for the artificial surfaces to cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma, testicular and prostate cancer, sarcoma and leukemia.

Hill's law would also compare the potential hazards in crumb-rubber turf surfaces with those made of alternative materials such as coconut fibers, rice husks, cork and used shoes.

Results of the studies would be posted on the Environmental Health Assessment office's website by July 1, 2017. Public and private schools and local governments would be banned from installing new synthetic-turf fields and playground surfaces until Jan. 1, 2018.

Costs for the studies would come from the California Tire Recycling Management Fund, which subsidizes programs related to waste-tire disposal.

If passed, the law would also require a comparison of infection rates between athletes who played on artificial and those on natural turf, which the 2010 research did not conduct. The 2010 study did examine bacteria at five artificial- and two natural-turf fields in the Bay Area. The artificial turf yielded from four to 10 different species of bacteria per field, compared to 11 to 14 per natural turf, according to the study.

The researchers concluded that artificial turf decreased the risk of infection compared to natural turf. But the rate of artificial-turf skin abrasions was two to three times higher. And abrasiveness could influence the frequency of bacterial infections, the researchers noted.

Palo Alto city and school district officials said their fields are inspected and cleaned regularly.

Comments

6 people like this
Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2015 at 10:43 am

Not to mention destroying more of our "green lung" (grass, clover, plants) so as to cover it with heavy metals laden ground up tires or petro chemical mats of phony turf. The schools and our town wants to be green not toxic - we should concentrate on using recycled water on real turf. We must not install anymore and start taking out what is there. And how many of us use it as our home "lawns? Stop!


5 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 2, 2015 at 11:12 am

It's time we eliminate synthetic turfs. I can only speak from my anecdotal evidence playing soccer. Injuries to joints seem more common and serious when playing on synthetic turf, and I heard recently of a higher incidence of certain types of cancer among goalies who played mainly on these surfaces. I guess they are in closer contact to the carcinogens in the synthetic material than regular field players.


3 people like this
Posted by Institutionalized violence
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 11:27 am

Additional evidence that football is bad for the health of players. Brain injuries and body injuries aren't persuasive enough.
It is time to stop glorifying this violent dangerous activity.
We need more sensible grownups to be in charge. Not just jocks.


4 people like this
Posted by Art Liberman
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 2, 2015 at 1:22 pm

I am in agreement with Sen. Hill that the health consequences of chronic exposure to chemical agents, including the volatile organics from rubber compounds, are not sufficiently well studied, but I disagree on the target of his legislation. Outgassing from compounds in rubberized artificial turf outdoor playing fields, as we have in California, are much, much less likely to be of concern than with similar fields in enclosed indoor fields where the fumes can be concentrated and values are much more elevated. This was the result of an in depth study a few years back by Connecticut Dept of Public Health (Web Link), and confirmed by studies in New York State.

Both the California DTSC and the EPA are both aware that elevated levels of hazardous fumes can exist in structures built over sites where groundwater remains highly contaminated by TCE and other similar chemicals and they understand that such elevated levels pose a real risk to the health of workers and residents who inhale the vapors eight or more hours per day, week after week, year after year. So, in addition to remediation efforts to clean up the contaminated groundwater, both the EPA and DTSC are now mandating regular indoor air sampling, forced aeration techniques in existing garages and basement areas built over such sites where the subsurface contamination levels are high (including several in Palo Alto and Mountain View), and impermeable barriers put in place before new structures are constructed.


3 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Natural grass is nice, when it is rarely used for actual play or practice. However, when it gets significant use it can be a real health hazard to players, due to holes/ruts and bare spots. Natural grass uses a ton of fresh water, hardly a good thing in a drought prone state like California. Natural grass requires herbicides and fertilizers, too. Under wet conditions, natural grass becomes a real mess, even dangerous.

There are substitutes for ground up rubber for synthetic turf. However, it should be realized that we are constantly breathing rubberized dust from our streets, because tires are always wearing down.

In terms of institutionalized violent sports, I am in favor of banning soccer, if we are going to head down that path.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 3, 2015 at 6:02 am

mauricio is a registered user.

<In terms of institutionalized violent sports, I am in favor of banning soccer, if we are going to head down that path.>

Accept that "soccer", aka football around the world, is not a violent sport, while American football is an extremely violent sport that causes horrific physical and mental damage to its players and definitely should be banned.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2015 at 7:04 am

Soccer poses a danger to brain health due to the practice of "heading" the ball.

Rugby
Australian Rules Football
Hockey
Lacrosse
Boxing
MMA
Wrestling


If you want to ban American football based upon a subjective level of violence or potential brain injury, then all of the above must go as well. Good luck with that.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2015 at 7:54 am

>Accept that "soccer", aka football around the world, is not a violent sport


Of course it is! They tackle each other and head butt (without protection). They even hit the ball in the air without a helmet, causing multiple micro concussions. Broken or sprained ankles and knees are common. The fans sometimes riot, with many deaths resulting. It is a nationalistic, emotional sport that promotes war. If any sport is to be banned for violence, it should be soccer. Mothers who care about the health of their children should prohibit them from playing soccer. The kids would be safer playing American football.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 8:15 am

Can't believe the comments here have deteriorated to this.

All sport can be dangerous, have injuries, but so does life.

We can wrap ourselves and our kids in bubble wrap and protect them from vague possible injuries, or we can take sensible precautions. Heading a ball in soccer is something that FIFA is aware of. AYSO has many rules to protect kids from injuries.

As for crowd violence, international soccer and club soccer does plenty to keep opposing fans apart. Now where does this happen in American sports? Brian Stowe for one would not be injured if fans had been kept apart.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2015 at 9:01 am

re. Brian Stowe. The attack happened in a parking lot not onside the stadium.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 9:11 am

Yes, that's why soccer crowds are kept apart outside the stadiums as well as inside them.


1 person likes this
Posted by Institutionalized violence
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 9:47 am

>based upon a subjective level of violence or potential brain injury

There is nothing subjective about brain injuries and the violence is there for all to see. Unless you refuse to look.

Banning alcohol at games would help but would be hard to enforce. The macho culture controls this money-fueled uncivilized nonsense but we need to acknowledge what is really going on.
Aggressive young men encouraged by aggressive old men.


5 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 3, 2015 at 9:48 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Look at retired soccer players. They are alive and generally healthy, they generally live to an old age. Look at American football players after they retire. Broken bodies, broken minds, don't live very long and live with horrible pain. America football kills its practitioners. It's the most violent sport there is, nothing but a gladiator sport, and even watching it is immoral, because it keeps this horrible gladiator spectacle in business.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Look at it this way:

If we ban soccer, we could open up many playing areas in Palo Alto, perhaps avoiding artificial turf. At the same time, we could protect many young brains from permanent injury.

I haven't been able to find any evidence that American football players die prematurely, although soccer players do.

I don't favor banning either, but if forced to choose, soccer needs to go!


1 person likes this
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 3, 2015 at 1:42 pm

[Portion removed.]

Web Link

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Troll,

[Portion removed.] NFL players live longer than expected among the general population. I read another link, this morning that showed not only this fact, but that soccer players live somewhat shorter lives.

Web Link

[Portion removed.]

I think soccer is somewhat more dangerous than American football, but I think both should be allowed. I like freedom of choice. The issue in this thread is whether or not they should be played on natural grass or artificial turf. I vote for artificial turf, when all factors are considered.


1 person likes this
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm

A study from 2012, Craig? One that "did not address the cognitive and mental health issues that have recently been linked to repeated blows to the head and that currently dominate the conversation about player safety"?

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Taunt
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 3, 2015 at 2:56 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 4:13 pm

It is not true that artificial turf does not require water. I was walking through the Stanford campus this summer when I came across a hockey field being sprayed by two enormous gushers that looked like broken fire hydrants.

I asked the person operating the gushers what was going on, and he replied that the artificial turf was too hot for the team to practice so, they needed to cool it down!


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2015 at 5:58 pm

> the artificial turf was too hot for the team to practice so, they needed to cool it down!

That is true, there are some artificial turf facilities that use large center-pivot water sprinklers to cool down the field on hot days. However, that water usage is miniscule, compared to growing natural grass.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2015 at 6:28 pm

I disagree. Boxing and MMA are far more violent than football. The sole purpose of the match is to knock out the opponent.


4 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Craig,

Miniscule? What I saw on the Stanford campus was not a center pivot sprinkler (wouldn't that be kind of dangerous on a play-field?). In fact it was not a sprinkler at all (as we know it). It was more like two fire-hoses gushing water for thirty minutes. The amount of water used could have watered a natural turf field for a month.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2015 at 10:07 am

Ahem,

Center pivots, when used for cooling artificial turf fields, are large sprinkler heads that are manually put into a buried receiver...they do not interfere with play. Some fields have sprinklers that pop up from the sidelines. I argued for the latter, when the playing fields at Page Mill and El Camino were being planned. Apparently, it was felt that there are not enough hot days in PA to justify the cost (I think that was a mistake, btw).

I happen to help take care of the local Little League park, and I control the water. I can assure you that natural grass takes an enormous amount of water, even when used judiciously. You apparently saw an artificial turf field at Stanford get flooded for cooling purposes. If that happened most days, you would have a point, but it does not...natural grass requires very regular watering.

One more thing about natural grass: Costs, including labor, fertilizer, herbicides, yearly top dressing/aeration, edging, lining, constant field grooming, etc. I like natural grass, but I am also aware of the issues...many people are either not aware, or choose to dismiss them.


4 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Craig,

OK, thanks for the details. Artificial turf fields also need to be occasionally disinfected to deal infectious bacteria from perspiration, blood, mucus, and animal droppings that accumulate on the artificial turf play-fields, and persist due to the lack of antagonistic organisms that are present in natural turf.


6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 5, 2015 at 11:51 am

Let's bring this discussion back to the points in the article. There are concerns about turf and chemical exposure.

Artificial turf is much hotter than natural grass to play on (by 10 degrees or more on sunny days) and the gases that emanate are like those at a tire dump.... Which are known to catch fire. Being on or near a turf field on a warm sunny day can be suffocating.

Second, the tire bits used to cushion the turf crumble into soot-like dust that sticks to everything and is very difficult to get out of skin and clothes. As the parent of two soccer players - one is a goalkeeper - I know all too well how difficult it is to wash out the black in their clothes. I need to wash and rinse by hand the goalie jerseys and shorts several times before they can even be put into the washing machine. Otherwise, all our laundry would be black - not grey - black.

It's very worrisome considering that a number of goalkeepers in Washington have developed cancer - and one common factor was they all played on artificial turf.


4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 5, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Web Link

The above link is a report about cancer cases and soccer goalies.


4 people like this
Posted by Environmental Professional
a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2015 at 1:18 pm

After reading the article I realized that they are forgetting the lead issue.

The colorants used in older turf used lead and chromate as part of the turf color. These toxins are encapsulated such that they don't initially pose a risk - but after the lifespan of the turf is over, and the grass part degrades, the lead in particular is released.

How do I know ? I've done the testing.


6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Crumb-rubber turf in spectator's section of Stanford's new VB stadium!

Yesterday afternoon I took a walk on the Stanford Campus, and stopped by the new newly constructed Sand Volleyball Stadium, and was shocked to discover they have installed crumb-rubber turf in the spectators section of the stadium.

The rubber crumbs in the turf are quite loose. I discovered the crumbs in the turf when I inadvertently put my fingers into the turf and came up with dozens of rubber crumbs lodged under my fingernails.

Stanford will be hosting a volleyball tournament this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Any one attending the matches should take precautions with infants, and young children to make sure they do ingest any of the rubber crumbs.

Given the questions surrounding this material and its association with rare cancers, why was crumb-rubber turf installed in in the spectators section? The crumb-rubber is there to cushion athletic activity, and serves no function in the spectator section. The loose rubber crumbs could also eventually find there way down into the sand courts, and into the mouths of the athletes.

"How Safe Is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?"
NBC News ~ October 8, 2014 Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by And Another Thing.....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2015 at 6:36 pm

One thing that needs additional mention is that unless that crumb-rubber stuff is always in the shade, it gets very, very HOT to the touch. It also smells of chemical when the ambient temps rise above 75degrees--do we really want children, who are closer to ground level, breathing this stuff?...


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2015 at 6:44 pm

Artificial turf = no irrigation / drought measure


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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