The topic of crumb rubber and cancer is once again in the news

The leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, asking 10 questions about what the agency knows about possible connections between recycled tire rubber athletic turf and cancer.

The EPA also said its scientists will act as technical advisors to a recently announced study by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to evaluate the possible chemical hazards presented by human exposure to crumb rubber.

The letter — signed by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey), John Shimkus (R-Illinois) and Paul Tonko (D-New York) — specifically cites two controversial NBC News reports, aired on Oct. 8, 2014 and Oct. 1, 2015, which told the stories of female goalkeepers on soccer teams who developed various forms of cancer after playing for years on athletic fields equipped with crumb-rubber artificial turf.

“These stories and others raise questions among athletes and parents that crumb rubber on artificial turf athletic fields may present a pathway to exposure to one or more carcinogens,” the letter said.

Among the questions by the congressmen were:

  • Whether the EPA had conducted additional testing after its 2009 study of synthetic turf, which found no evidence of contaminants leaching from crumb rubber but also called for further study;
  • Whether the EPA had coordinated with other federal agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, regarding their risk assessments of crumb-rubber artificial turf;
  • Whether the EPA has determined if chemicals in crumb rubber present an unreasonable risk to human health;
  • Whether there was any distinct correlation between soccer-play and cancer, and, if so, if there were data indicating a minimum threshold for risk; and
  • Whether there were any industry standards setting limits for exposure to crumb rubber.

Organizations representing the synthetic turf industry — including the Safe Fields Alliance, the Recycled Rubber Council and the Rubber Manufacturers Association — staunchly defend the safety of recycled tire crumb rubber in artificial turf. Not one among dozens of studies, they point out, has ever uncovered a causative link between crumb rubber and disease.

At the same time, the organizations say they welcome further third-party studies to decide the issue conclusively.

Read more of our crumb-rubber turf coverage here.