NBC Investigation: Children Inhaling Chemical-Laced Rubber Dust on Sports Fields

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Tiny chunks of rubber tires fill artificial turf fields across the nation. - NBC NEWS
  • NBC News
  • Tiny chunks of rubber tires fill artificial turf fields across the nation.

Soccer moms (and dads, brothers, sisters and anyone else who cares about child athletes) took notice Wednesday night when NBC News unleashed a startling investigative report, detailing the link between synthetic turf and an increasing number of cancer diagnoses.

Titled "How Safe is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?" the story unveils the dirty little secret of "tiny black rubber crumbs" on artificial turf fields across the U.S. Those crumbs, in fact, are chunks of old tires, which cover athletes' uniforms, hair and cleats; and not surprisingly, are inhaled by too many of those athletes. In particular, soccer goalies, whose bodies are in constant contact with the dangerous turf, are at high risk.

“I’ve coached for 26, 27 years,” said Seattle soccer coach Amy Griffin. “My first 15 years, I never heard anything about this. All of a sudden it seems to be a stream of kids.”

Griffin made a point of compiling a list of soccer players, many of them in the Pacfic Northwest, who have been diagnosed with cancer. "But the geographic spread is nationwide," reports NBC.

The rubber crumbs contain benzene, carbon black and lead, among other substances.

But no official research has linked artificial turf to cancer. The people who make synthetic turf, to no surprise, say their product is safe. And the EPA would only tell NBC that "more testing needs to be done," and that the issue is a "state and local decision."

But following Wednesday's report, we can expect to hear a lot more about the controversy.