Safe alternative to rubber granule artificial turf readily available: report

Two safe, albeit more expensive, alternatives for potentially carcinogenic rubber granules used in artificial turf were already available from two internationally operating companies in October 2015, the Volkskrant reports based on its own research.

The two companies developed safe alternatives after the Netherlands started advocating for stricter rules for artificial turf with the European Commission, the Volkskrant discovered in thousands of pages of documents it got from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment through the Freedom of Information Act. The Netherlands eventually dropped its demands for stricter artificial turf rules, partly due to vehement protest from rubber granules producers, according to the newspaper.

According to the newspaper, Swiss company Sekisui Alveo asked the Dutch institute for public health and environment RIVM for information on the new requirements for artificial turf in early October 2015. The RIVM initially responded that the new requirements would be stricter. Terra Sports Technology BV, based in Sittard, also started preparing for stricter rules. The company produced granules from plastics, which comes in way below the standard for products containing carcinogens. The plastic granules are seven times more expensive than the rubber granules though.

The companies, specifically Sekisui Alveo approaching the RIVM, sparked a debate about the new requirements. The tire and recycling industry were shocked because the government seemed to want to ban rubber granules. Doing so would have major consequences in the Netherlands, where about 2 thousand artificial turf fields contain bits of recycled tires. And replacing all 15 thousand such fields in the EU would cost "billions", the industry said to the Ministries of Infrastructure and Environments and Public Health, Welfare and Sports at an emergency meeting arranged by recycling firm Granuband in Amsterdam on October 27th, 2015.

In December 2015 the Netherlands withdrew its plea for more stringent requirements for artificial turf. This happened after strong lobbying by the tire industries in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe, as well as a request from the European Commission, according to the newspaper. Though the Minister Schippers of Public Health, Welfare and Sports, said that the government's decision was not influenced by the tire industry.

As the requirements for artificial turf were not changed, production continued as usual. The RIVM launched an investigation into how safe the recycled rubber granules were, after concerns were raised that they may be carcinogenic last year, and concluded that they were safe to play on. Though the Dutch institute is now also advocating that the rules for artificial turf be tightened, according to the newspaper.