Is Artificial Turf Dangerous and Unsafe for our Kids?

The other day I came across an article about artificial turf and how it could be linked to athletes getting cancer.

This is a horrific thought. My kids play the occasional soccer game on the astro turf field close by our house and the thought that this artificial turf could be damaging their health is something I wanted to find out more about.

I am always dubious about the so called evidence produced in these types of articles. So I did a little research myself.

Image: flickr

Image: flickr

What are the toxic, or potentially toxic, chemicals that make up artificial turf?

According to this study there are four main substances that we need to concern ourselves with:

benzothiazole
butylated hydroxyanisole
n-hexadecane
4-(t-octyl) phenol

None of these seem to jump out as horrific cancer causing substances at first glance however Butylated hydroxyanisole is a recognized carcinogen.

Are there any proven links between artificial turf and cancer?

There have been no studies done on a large enough controlled population base that can conclusively point to the theory that artificial turf has any kind of link to cancer. In saying that, there is some anecdotal evidence.

One such unofficial yet concerning study, was that done by Amy Griffen, coach of the women’s soccer team at University of Washington, USA. She compiled a list of 38 soccer players that had been diagnosed with cancer and was disturbed to find that 34 of these players were goalkeepers.

If anyone was going to get sick from artificial turf it would be goal keepers as they have much more contact with the turf compared to the other players.

Amy herself admits it is not a conclusive study and would in fact very much like to be proven wrong. I think if any of us came across similar information to what Amy did, we would be starting to ask serious questions.

Conclusion

We know that artificial turf contains hazardous chemicals. The question is, will playing on artificial turf cause cancer?

Well, we simply don’t know. From the studies done and the evidence supplied, we just can’t say that artificial turf causes cancer.

With that being said, it seems there is enough anecdotal evidence to warrant further investigation. How hard is it to compile a list of a few thousand soccer goal keepers that played on artificial turf, and compare their cancer rates with those of a subset of the general public?

If any further studies come to hand in the future we will revisit this topic and update accordingly.

What do you think, is artificial turf dangerous?

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