Rubber granules in artificial turf harmful to environment


The rubber granulate used in artificial turf is harmful to the environment in the immediate vicinity of the fields, according to research by public health institute RIVM and the union of water boards UVW. The rubber granules can leak substances that end up in the soil and dredges around the fields, the researchers found, ANP reports.

According  to the researchers, this is bad for the environment because it affects biodiversity. Children  and animals that accidentally ingest road soil are not at risk. Ditch water and groundwater in the natural subsoil are not contaminated by the rubber granules and can still be used, according to the RIVM.

The RIVM looked at ten football clubs' artificial turf fields that are scattered with rubber granules made from old car tires. The quality of the environment around the fields was compared with the environmental quality around real grass fields. "At various locations, the concentrations of zinc, cobalt and mineral oil exceeded the applicable standards for soil and sediment", the researchers found. Zinc in particular poses a risk to the environment, though not to human health.

The RIVM recommends that measures be taken to prevent rubber granules from ending up on the road surface and in water ditches. Granules end up on the road surface through human movement and leaf blowers for example, and can get into ditches through draining pipes. 

Recybem, an initiative of suppliers focused on processing old tires responsibly, emphasizes that not only the granules made from old tires are harmful, but all types that are processed into artificial turf. The organization wants to consult with contractors, field owners and site managers that are responsible for the construction and maintenance. "We need to find new ways to clean up those granules in a simple way", Recybem said, according to the news wire.

According to Recycling Netwerk, this study shows that rubber granules lead to serious environmental problems. "The standards are exceeded in no fewer than nine of the ten sports fields surveyed", the environmental organization said. "This study sets all lights to red for rubber granules on sports fields. It is the official confirmation that the use of shredded car tire waste on sports fields causes unacceptable environmental risks."

In 2007 then Minister of Environment, Jacqueline Cramer, approved the use of rubber granules. The decision stipulates that the "water quality manager" must check whether there is any contamination around the artificial turf fields. That did not happen, television program Zembla reported in October last year. The RIVM therefore launched this study. 

In 2016 there was also widespread concern that the rubber granules used in artificial turf may be carcinogenic. The RIVM concluded athletic events played on artificial turf mixed with rubber granules in the Netherlands does not significantly increase exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, but recommended a wider scale international study of the rubber granules, as regulations governing the practice are inconsistent from country to country.