A high school in Burien, Washington has scrapped its plan to use crumb rubber turf in its new football field because of potential safety concerns raised in an NBC News investigation, school officials said.
“As soon as the news broke, I contacted our architect and distributor and said, ‘We’re not putting the crumb rubber on. Stop everything. Hold everything. Let us do more research,’” said Kennedy Catholic High School Principal Mike Prato. “If we’re going to do this, we want it to be the safest field it can be.”
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.
Kennedy Catholic, which was just days away from installing the crumb rubber, will instead use a Nike infill made up of recycled tennis shoe soles. The football team, which had no field for the first 48 years of the school’s existence, hopes to play its first-ever home game on the new turf next week.
“I want nothing but the best for every one of these kids—and there’s no way to put a price tag on their safety and well-being,” said Bob Bourgette, who has been coaching the Kennedy Catholic Lancers for 43 years. “Recognizing the tests and reports are not confirmed about the cancer risk, we still chose to mitigate the concerns of our community and go with Nike Grind.”
Using the Nike product instead of crumb rubber will add about $40,000 to the cost of the field, Principal Prato said. The new material should be installed by Monday. The total cost of the new stadium, he said, is $2.4 million.
Prato sent a letter to parents earlier this week after some of them had reached out expressing concerns following the NBC News reports. “Because the news is still breaking, and it will inevitably take some time for all the scientific testing to be completed and reviewed, we have decided to make a bold move as a school to prevent any unnecessary risk to our student athletes,” the letter said.
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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