A New Jersey city has halted its plans to install an artificial turf field following an NBC News investigation that raised potential safety concerns, city officials said. Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian decided to keep the natural grass football field at Carey Stadium until more research is done.
"While I am aware that there are no studies demonstrating a health risk associated with such turf, I have come to believe that further study is necessary," Mayor Gillian said in a statement Tuesday. "I am not ruling out installation of artificial turf in the future, pending the outcome of such studies. In the meantime the City will undertake the necessary repairs to the track and take any actions necessary to maintain the natural turf at Carey Field in a safe condition."
Carey Stadium is a city-owned field that is used by Ocean City High School's football, soccer and lacrosse teams, as well as the Ocean City Nor'easters, a semi-professional soccer team. The city council had approved plans and funds for a new crumb rubber surface less than a month ago.
On October 8, NBC News aired the first in a series of on-air reports about crumb rubber turf. A Seattle area soccer coach and some former players have asked the federal government to conduct studies about any possible health risks from the turf, which is made of recycled tires and used on thousands of fields nationwide. The coach has compiled a list of dozens of former soccer players, many of them former goalies, who have developed cancer, but no study has shown any link between the surface and any health risk.
Earlier this week, Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington scrapped its plan to use crumb rubber turf in its new football field after seeing the NBC News reports. According to Principal Mike Prato, the school will instead use a Nike infill made up of recycled tennis shoe soles.
A Democratic congressman from New Jersey, Frank Pallone, has called for a federal study on any health risks associated with crumb rubber on the thousands of sports fields across the country.
"The fact is that we do not have enough information on the effects that exposure to crumb rubber has on young athletes," said Rep. Pallone in a statement after Ocean City announced its decision. "We do know that middle school and high school students who are still growing and developing are particularly vulnerable to the harmful chemicals found in rubber tires. And they are playing on these fields unaware of any potential risks it may pose to their health. I think that we have a responsibility to do more research on these substances so that we know the fields our kids are playing on are safe."
The Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, says that crumb rubber fields are safe, and that numerous studies conducted around the world have shown no health risk. "The preponderance of evidence shows no negative health effects associated with crumb rubber in synthetic turf," it said in a statement last week.
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