Research protocol released for crumb rubber turf study

Three federal agencies have released a research protocol for their study evaluating the safety of recycled crumb rubber used in athletic fields and playgrounds.

The 251-page protocol—released jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission—follows the joint action plan the agencies released in February 2016 to evaluate the health and environmental effects of chemicals released by crumb rubber in the ground.

Several studies already exist that examine the possible effects of exposure to crumb rubber infill, the protocol states in its executive summary.

“While, in general, these studies have not provided evidence for these health concerns, the existing studies do not comprehensively evaluate all aspects of exposure associated with these use scenarios,” the summary said.

According to the summary, the research protocol is designed to implement three crucial research elements described in the action plan. These are:

  • Conducting a literature review and data gaps analysis;
  • Performing tire crumb rubber characterization research; and
  • Performing human exposure characterization research.

The literature review and data gaps analysis is an important component of the action plan and necessary to guiding both near-term and longer-term research, according to the summary.

The tire crumb rubber characterization study will involve the collection of crumb rubber from recycling plants and synthetic turf fields across the U.S., it said. The study will include laboratory analysis of a wide range of metals, volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds found in tires, it said.

The exposure characterization study is a pilot-scale effort to collect information on the activities of synthetic turf field users that affect potential exposures to crumb rubber constituent materials, the summary said.

It also will involve a human exposure measurement study to further develop and deploy appropriate sample collection methods and the generation of data for improved exposure characterization, it said.

The agencies plan to issue a draft status report before the end of 2016, summarizing the progress of the research and identifying substances of concern in recycled tire crumb, the EPA said in a press release.

The joint federal research study is concurrent with two other crumb rubber research projects. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment began a study of possible chemical exposures from crumb rubber in 2015, and the European Commission called on the European Chemicals Agency to assess potential risks from crumb rubber in the early summer of 2016.