The source of these toxins is linked to the “crumb rubber” used to simulate soil on the turf’s surface. The rubber is reclaimed from disused car and truck tires, which contain harmful contaminants like lead and benzene. Once distributed over a field, they can release these toxins at harmful concentrations.
In addition to benzene and lead, the list of toxins that have been discovered on artificial turf fields includes mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, arsenic, and other carcinogenic compounds.
Three of the country’s biggest manufacturers of artificial turf, Field Turf, AstroTurf LLC, and Beaulieu Group, have already began to reduce the amount of lead in their products in response to an artificial turf cancer lawsuit filed by the California Attorney General’s office. The suit alleged that the companies failed to warn customers of the potentially dangerous toxins that their products contained.
Still, litigators across the country have begun investigations into a potential artificial turf cancer class action against turf manufacturers for the injuries suffered by those exposed to the harmful substances.
Of particular concern are children involved in youth sports. Many of whom have accrued hours of exposure to toxins while playing on the turf. High school soccer goalies are currently seen as the most at-risk group for developing cancer from turf exposure. This is due to the amount “crumb rubber” that is disturbed during diving saves.
An additional vector for exposure are the cuts and scrapes that the abrasive surface of the turf frequently causes. Which would allow toxins from the “crumb rubber” to enter the bloodstream directly.
The scientific community has yet to establish a definitive link between exposure to artificial turf and an elevated cancer risk. Many of the fields that have been tested do not appear to contain significant amounts of toxins. However external factors such as drainage and ventilation have been found to influence ambient levels of lead found on fields.
Still, some experts have cautioned that the fields will become more toxic with age. As natural weathering breaks down the structure of the “crumb rubber,” releasing the toxins contained within.
If this case makes it to trial, a few different types of expert witnesses will be used by both parties. Toxicology expert witnesses will discuss the amount of lead and toxic materials found in turfs and their affects on the human body. Public health expert witnesses will be used to discuss what are safe levels of these toxins versus dangerous levels.