Friday, 21 July 2017

Do Astro Turf Soccer Pitches Cause Cancer?

The opening ceremony for a new artificial soccer pitch built by Asamoah Gyan - the well-travelled soccer star, and super-wealthy captain of Ghana's senior male soccer team, the Black Stars - as a gift to Accra Academy, the secondary school that he is said to have attended,  took place recently.

The occassion was graced by quite a number of dignatories, including former President Rawlings.

Although some may regard such a call as unduly alarmist, for the sake of the many young people who will use that astro turf soccer pitch, it is important that the school authorities of Accra Academy quickly take steps to find out whether or not any recycled crushed rubber crump from discarded truck tyres were used as infill in the construction of that artificial soccer pitch, as soon as practicable.

There have been allegations made overseas that the crushed rubber crump from discarded truck tryes used as infill in the construction of astro turf soccer pitches might be carcinogenic.

If crushed rubber crump were indeed used as infill for the Accra Academy astro turf soccer pitch, then because he is a caring individual who can also afford to replace any such recycled tyre crump, Asamoah Gyan must quickly use his extensive international network to find a safe substitute  to replace the crushed recycled truck tyre rubber crump.

To avoid some of those who will use the Accra Academy astro turf pitch getting cancer - as a result of playing soccer on it, or using it for athletics training and competitions - it would be much better for Asamoah Gyan to bear the extra cost that that would entail than having it on his conscience for the rest of his life: were it to be finally proven scientifically that indeed the crushed rubber crump made from  recycled truck tyres  used as infill for astro turf soccer pitches, are carcinogenic.

For the information of the authorities of Accra Academy, and Asamoah Gyan's charitable foundation, we are posting a culled article written by the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph's Jonathan Wells, about the potential  dangers posed by the crushed rubber crump used in infills for the construction of astro turf soccer pitches in the U.S., the UK and parts of Europe.

Please read on:

   "Do astro turf soccer pitches cause cancer?

   Jonathan Wells

17 February 2016 • 8:35am

Artificial turf has a lot going for it. Low maintenance and easy to adjust for different sports, it's a state-of-the-art innovation that can be found in 5-a-side centres, Premier League training grounds and even schools across the country.

You can see why the FA wants to bring about a 50pc increase in the number of full size artificial pitches in England by 2020.

Could it even be that these synthetic surfaces are preferable to the natural alternative?

Well, perhaps not. Earlier this week, former NHS Cumbria boss and concerned father Nigel Maguire shared his theory that artificial surfaces had caused his 18-year old son’s cancer.

But with little hard evidence to back up his claim, how much credence should sportsman in Britain give to Maguire's words?
Maguire
Lewis Maguire who has cancer, with his father Nigel Credit: Cascade News

Artificial '3G' pitches are created by inserting synthetic grass-like blades into a thin base layer of sand. These blades are then supported by an infill of 'rubber crumb' or 'astro-dirt' – small pieces of rubber sourced from reclaimed automotive tyres. It is these granules that Maguire warns may be rife with carcinogens.

He is not the first to suggest this link. In 2006, a Norwegian study evaluated the dangers of using styrene butadiene rubber (rubber crumb) in the composition of artificial turf. This Scandinavian study found that "the component spectrum has a clear signature from the rubber granulate and contains a considerable number of components which are associated with adverse effects on health." However, no further course of action was taken.

In a 2008 study of artificial turf by scientists in Michigan, harmful chemicals were found in virtually every sample of the surface tested, including arsenic, chromium and lead. Despite academics concluding that "more research is needed," no further studies by the scientists ever appeared.

And, in 2013, the use of recycled rubber in leisure facilities was analysed in Dutch journal Chemosphere. The researchers concluded that "uses of recycled rubber tires, especially those targeting play areas and other facilities for children, should be a matter of regulatory concern." But still, three years on, no major studies have addressed the problems.

So, Maguire’s worry that his concerns will be ignored is not unprecedented.
Slide
Emili GarcĂ­a slides on the artificial surface in Wales, kicking up the rubber crumb Credit: Getty/AFP

 "I knew nothing of any dangers to the health of coaches, referees or players and had been perfectly happy for Lewis to play on these surfaces," Maguire tells Telegraph Men. “Even when Lewis became unwell and was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, we still made no connection.
"Even when Lewis became unwell, and was diagnosed as Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, we still made no connection."
Nigel Maguire

 "I started researching and found that, in America, connections were being made between the increasing number of players developing cancers – most notably Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – and those playing on artificial turf. However, this research had not been given widespread visibility in the UK and was only just gaining momentum in the US."

Maguire believes that his son, who trains at the Leeds Football Club Academy as a goalkeeper, was more susceptible to the effects of the rubber crumb because he plays in a position that traditionally has a lot of contact with the pitch.
Lewis Maguire who has cancer of the lymphatic system Credit: Cascade News

In October last year, Amy Griffin, the coach of the University of Washington women's soccer team, was visiting a female goalkeeper in hospital. A nurse told the coach that the chemotherapy ward had seen four goalkeepers in the last week alone. Griffin, concerned by this, compiled a list of the 38 soccer players she knew who had been diagnosed with cancer. 34 of them were goalkeepers.

Griffin presented her findings, questions were asked, and then the matter lost the public’s attention. Griffin, who freely admitted that her findings didn't present a reliable data set, simply wanted an explanation – and to know whether or not athletes and even schoolchildren were at risk from the carcinogenic compounds. Maguire has also called for a full and public investigation.

“After the first time Lewis received treatment, we still had no knowledge of the potential implications of the artificial turf," says Maguire. "So we let him resume activity on the surfaces. And, even though Lewis’ Consultant at the Royal Victoria Infirmary said that it was very, very rare for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to relapse in children, this is now Lewis’ second illness.

"When the rubber crumbs are breathed in, ingested, or enter the body through the nose, ears, eyes or mouth, the tiny particles can get into the digestive and respiratory tracts. The particles are minute, sharp and embed very easily. We believe that this is the reason Lewis now has soft tumours in his spleen, lungs, neck and back.

 "And ingestion through body orifices is not the only potential danger," Maguire continues. "These surfaces also cause grazes or burns in a way natural grass and turf does not. Minor scuffs can be much deeper when suffered on artificial surfaces and so substances may enter the body through these abrasions. Fingernails and hair will also collect these particles through normal play activity - not even necessarily during a sports game.
Artificial turf can be found in 5-a-side centres, Premiership training grounds and even schools

So could artificial football pitches really be causing cancer?

 “The constituent, which is presently being scrutinised in the media, is the rubber crumb element,” says Eric o’Donnell, Managing Director of artificial pitch quality assurance company Sports Labs. “Whilst there have been over 50 studies carried out on the suggested link between rubber crumb and cancer causing chemicals elements, there has been no proof whatsoever that the rubber crumb constituent material is a risk to users.

“Artificial pitches are subjected to stringent checks when commissioned to ensure that they are safe to use, are durable and do not contain materials harmful to health,” o’Donnell continues. “Tests are carried out to verify the materials used in the artificial turf, sand and rubber are not toxic to humans. This regulation is covered in legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work Act, Consumer Protection Act and COSHH regulations.

 “No adverse results have been noted to-date.”
"Artificial pitches are subjected to stringent checks when commissioned to ensure that they are safe to use."
Eric o'Donnell

However, o’Donnell also says that while there is “overwhelming evidence to suggest that using artificial pitches incorporating rubber crumb derived from recycled truck tyres is safe,” manufacturing companies are beginning to look at the possibility of using substitute material rather than the current reclaimed rubber.

 “Artificial pitches can have alternative performance infill, which contains modified plastic pellets, or natural infill derived from organic materials – many do. This moves away from the use of recycled truck tyres and does provide an alternative for those seeking to move away from rubber crumb infill.”
There are natural alternative to the potentially harmful rubber crumb infill Credit: Getty

The manufacturing companies we contacted did not mention a move away from rubber crumb, instead simply repeating that the allegedly carcinogenic infill used in their products was safe.

 “All of our surfaces are free from lead and toxins, making 3G a sustainable and healthy option for sports and landscape surfaces,” says Paul Langford, Managing Director at TigerTurf UK. “A number of studies have examined the safety of the rubber crumb used in many 3G pitches, with the overriding consensus being that users are not exposed to any significant health risks. This is a view shared by National Governing Bodies of English Sport (NGBs), Sport England and SAPCA.”
"To truly address this, large, carefully controlled population studies would be required."
Dr Andrew Thorley

Like Griffin and Maguire, Dr Andrew Thorley, a lecturer in Lung Cell Biology at Imperial College London, believes that a full scale study must be undertaken before any conclusions can be made, but acknowledges that compounds found in the rubber crumb have been known to lead to the development of cancer.

 “It is impossible to make any conclusions from the anecdotal evidence collected by Amy Griffin without knowing the geographical spread of all the cases and how many regular users of synthetic turf do not develop lymphoma,” says the biologist. “A number of studies have identified the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals in synthetic turfs derived from crumb rubber, but they have not been able to determine whether they are at levels that do in fact lead to an increased incidence of disease.

"To truly address this, large, carefully controlled population studies would be required.""

© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2017

 End of culled Daily Telegraph article by Jonathan Wells.






















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