New York State Study Finds Crumb Rubber Infill to be Safe. Tests Show No Health Concerns.
May 29, 2009
A new study released today by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Health (DOH) concludes that crumb rubber material used in synthetic turf fields poses no significant environmental threat to air or water quality and poses no significant health concerns.
The study, available on DEC’s web site (details below), assessed the potential release of chemicals in crumb rubber to the environment. Crumb rubber, produced by grinding scrap tires, is a common “infill” material for synthetic turf fields. It provides cushioning and helps to hold the carpet down and keep synthetic grass fibers upright. The study only addressed the crumb rubber infill and did not address pigments used in synthetic turf fibers that in older applications are known to contain lead.
The study found:
- No significant threat from chemicals leaching into surface water and groundwater. While some chemicals can be released from crumb rubber over time, they are in small concentrations and are reduced by absorption, degradation and dilution—resulting in no significant impact on groundwater or surface water.
- Lead concentrations in crumb rubber are well below federal hazard standards for lead in soil and do not represent a significant source of lead exposure.
- Levels of chemicals in the air at synthetic turf fields do not raise a significant health concern.
- Synthetic turf fields can have significantly higher surface temperatures compared to nearby grass and sand fields, although factors of heat stress did not differ noticeably among surfaces. Still, the study notes that prolonged contact with hotter surfaces has the potential to create discomfort, cause thermal injury and contribute to heat-related illness.
To carry out the study, state scientists conducted lab tests on crumb rubber samples obtained from manufacturers and conducted tests at synthetic fields. They tested for leaching, exposure to acid rain and acid digestion, exposed samples to a range of temperatures to observe impacts, assessed chemical particle sizes for their potential to move through soil and air, collected soil samples at wells down-gradient from existing synthetic turf fields and measured air samples upwind and downwind of such fields. DEC will continue groundwater and surface water testing related to this issue.
Led by DEC’s Division of Solid and Hazardous Materials and the Division of Air Resources, the state pursued a comprehensive evaluation of potential chemical releases from crumb rubber. It involved an interdisciplinary approach, drawing upon expertise in DEC’s and DOH’s other programs including water resources, remediation, laboratory, chemistry and fish and wildlife.
The study is available on DEC’s “Waste Tire” web page: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8792.html. For more information about crumb-rubber infilled fields, see the DOH fact sheet (pdf)