Crumb rubber concerns halt turf installation

Seminole County (FL) has stopped installation of artificial turf on several athletic fields at a new sports complex after Commissioner Lee Constantine raised concerns about the crumb rubber material that substitutes for dirt.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the installation was halted so that the county could have an opportunity to look into health impacts of crumb rubber.

“If we’re using it, then at the very least we should be studying all the information that is out there,” Constantine told the Sentinel. “Because where does the buck ultimately stop? It stops with us, the commissioners.”

Crumb rubber is a material made by grinding up rubber tires into tiny pellets. It’s been used in construction projects, including playgrounds and playing fields across the country for years.

Recently, parents have raised concerns about the rubber that the tires are made of. Heavy metals and chemicals like lead and arsenic are found in rubber from car and truck tires.

The county began construction on it’s $27 million sports complex earlier this year. Once it’s completed in 2016, it will feature a baseball stadium, and 15 other fields for sports like soccer, football and lacrosse. Of those fields, nine are planned to have artificial turf and six will be natural grass. Crews have already installed crumb rubber on two fields, but stopped installation last week.

“In an abundance of caution, we are going to hold up on the installation until we do some further research and learn more,” Bruch McMenemy, Seminole’s deputy county manager said. “I don’t know how long it will be. Whatever time it takes.”

Seminole County’s leisure-services director Joe Abel said that county commissioners decided to install artificial turf at the sports complex because it lasts longer than natural turf, is less expensive to maintain and can be opened up to regular use more quickly after a heavy rain.

However, Commissioners say county employees didn’t tell share any information about safety concerns with them before the decision was made.

Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), a trade association that represents the recycling industry, said that despite recent calls for an examination of the safety of crumb rubber, research supports it as a safe material.

“There has been extensive research over the past 22 years and more than 75 independent, peer-reviewed studies focusing on the health effects of synthetic-turf fields and playgrounds containing crumb rubber from recycled tires, and the fact is, these fields are safe,” Wiener said.