Rubber bits, artificial turf not a cancer risk in Netherlands: report

Athletic events played on artificial turf mixed with rubber granules in the Netherlands does not significantly increase exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, states an unreleased report by Dutch health authority RIVM, according to the Telegraaf. Still, the agency recommends a wider scale international study of the rubber granules, often made by recycling automotive tires, as regulations governing the practice are inconsistent from country to country.

"Better understanding and more stringent standards can help contribute to a reduction of existing health concerns about playing sports on artificial turf," the newspaper quotes from the report. However, at the end of the day, the choice to use rubber granules and fake grass should still lie in the hands of athletes, parents and municipalities, the report continues.

The RIVM study looked at 100 different facilities in the Netherlands, all making use of the tire pellets. The results show a small increased presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including derivatives from benzothiazole, phthalate and phenol.

An increased risk of cancer resulting from the presence of PAHs is “negligible,” the Telegraaf quotes the report as saying. Children were advised not to stuff their mouths with the bits of rubber, but that recommendation is the same for gravel and sand, the newspaper story claimed.

A report by broadcaster NOS last month based on research from a tire industry group showed that the presence of carcinogens on these sports fields was many times higher than what is allowed in consumer goods. The group, VACO, is providing free testing of the suspect pitches, of which there are over 2,000 in the Netherlands alone. The city of Amsterdam put a moratorium on new construction of sports facilities using rubber pellets in early December following the NOS report.

Sliding tackles were also deemed reasonably safe across the rubber pellets, the Telegraaf says. The granules also help keep the ball from bouncing to high or rolling to fast, better simulating play on natural grass, the newspaper claims.

The newspaper did not disclose how it acquired the as-yet unpublished report from the RIVM.