Hartford, CT—According to a story by Regine Labossiere on the Hartford (CT) Courant website, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal urged Monday that the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station be assigned to conduct a new study to determine the potential hazards posed by crumb rubber used in artificial turf and gardening mulch. Blumenthal sent a letter to Gina McCarthy, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, asking that the Agricultural Experiment Station take the lead on the study because of its work last year investigating the toxic components of ground-up recycled vehicle tires that form the crumb rubber infill. That study and others around the world have positively identified toxic chemicals that can cause asthma, eye and skin irritations, cancer and a decline in plant growth and aquatic life, but there is no scientific evidence that anyone has gotten sick because of their use of artificial turf. Blumenthal’s letter to McCarthy was sent a few days after the attorney general’s office and the DEP negotiated a settlement with a developer and builders of the Montville Commons Shopping Center in Montville whose construction led to severe flooding, a mudslide and evacuation of homes in 2005. Under the agreement, the DEP will use $200,000 of the $750,000 settlement to fund a study of potential impacts of crumb rubber on the health of people and the environment.
“This step is a major breakthrough for safety and health efforts concerning artificial turf. As children play on these fields across Connecticut, we are playing with their health until we know the answers to questions about lead, zinc, hydrocarbons and other chemicals that may be dangerous to their health,” Blumenthal said Monday. Many parks departments, school districts and makers of artificial turf have expounded on the benefits of the low-maintenance fields that have been installed in recent years and will continue to be installed. But officials from the Agricultural Experiment Station as well as the attorney general’s office and nonprofit groups have been advocating in the past year the need to do a more comprehensive and conclusive study. There even was a bill before the state legislature this year to allocate $250,000 to the DEP to fund a study, but that bill died at the end of the session. Now the advocates for a more conclusive study will get what they’ve been pushing for. Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health Inc., a North Haven-based nonprofit that paid for the Agricultural Experiment Station’s study last year, said her organization, “is extremely pleased that the state will now be able to test the synthetic turf crumbs. There are three things that need to be tested: the synthetic turf fields, the mulch that goes on gardens and the alternative to ground up rubber infill.” DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said the department plans to work with other state agencies — possibly the Department of Public Health and the Agricultural Experiment Station — and may coordinate with federal agencies that also are conducting studies on artificial turf. “We’re really in the early stages. We need to define the scope of the study,” Schain said. Blumenthal said the study also would examine other kinds of artificial turf, such as the kind made with nylon fibers. In recent weeks, officials in Stamford and New Jersey announced the closing of a few fields where tests showed the nylon-based material had high levels of lead. “My hope is that the Agricultural Station will be designated as soon as possible so we can start the study and complete it soon,” he said.