Research into rubber granulate on turf fields in 2016

RIVM has conducted research into the health risks of playing sports on synthetic turf fields with an infill of rubber granulate. The results of this research indicate that playing sports on these fields is safe. The risk to health from playing sports on these synthetic turf fields is virtually negligible. While rubber granulate contains harmful substances, these substances are only released from the rubber granulate in very small quantities after ingestion, contact with the skin or evaporation in hot weather. RIVM recommends adjusting the standard for rubber granulate to one that is closer to the standard applicable to consumer products.

Results

The main results from the research are:

  • Rubber granulate contains numerous substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates (plasticisers), metals and benzothiazoles (including 2-MBT).
  • These substances are released from the rubber granulate in very small quantities, making the risk to health from playing sports on these synthetic turf fields virtually negligible.
  • No indications of a relationship between leukaemia, lymph node cancer and sports on synthetic grass have been found.
  • Insights from earlier research showing that the rubber granulate contains metals capable of entering the environment have been confirmed. If the granulate has been in contact with soil for years, zinc is primarily released. This is not harmful to humans, but can have consequences for organisms in the soil or surface water.
  • The concentrations of substances in rubber granulate comply with the general European standards for mixtures of substances. If the standards for rubber granulate would apply to consumer products, a large number of the samples would not meet these standards because of the concentration of PAHs. Rubber granulate does not meet the standard for toys.
  • The current standard for PAHs in rubber consumer products is far more stringent (100 to 1,000 times) than the mixture standard that applies for rubber granulate. Given the nature of the use of synthetic turf fields, even by young children, there is a need from a health perspective for soundly-based standards for rubber granulate.

About the research

The aim of this research was to get an answer to the question whether playing sports on synthetic turf fields with rubber granulate poses health risks. Therefore, the following questions were investigated:

  1. Which harmful substances are in rubber granulate and in what quantities?
  2. To what extent can people playing sports on synthetic turf fields be exposed to these substances and what are the resulting health risks?
  3. What is known about the relationship between playing sports on synthetic grass with rubber granulate and leukaemia and lymph node cancer?
  4. How do the concentrations of substances found relate to legal and other standards?
     

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