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Rubber granulate FAQ's

About rubber granulate

What is rubber granulate?

Rubber granulate is made from shredded rubber, usually originating from scrap rubber products, such as car tyres. The main reason for using shredded car tyres is a European directive banning car tyres from landfills and making their recycling obligatory. Rubber granulate can also be made from new synthetic rubber.

What can rubber granulate be used for?

Rubber granulate is used to make products such as rubber tiles and rubber carpeting. In addition, rubber granulate is used as fill material in synthetic turf. It gives those fields the same characteristics as conventional grass pitches, making sure that balls do not roll too fast and do not bounce too high. In addition, rubber granules minimise injury to players when skidding or sliding on synthetic turf  fields.

What substances can be released from rubber granulate?

Research has shown that rubber granulate made from car tyres releases organic compounds, including various polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and plasticizers. Metals can also be released from rubber granulate. RIVM research has shown that a very small number of nitrosamines can be released from rubber granulate. No nitrosamines have been detected in the air above the infilled sports fields. PAH's, nitrosamines and some plasticizers are carcinogenic.

Can you tell whether rubber granulate has been used by looking at synthetic turf fields?

Yes, black or coloured granules are clearly visible between the artificial grass blades. With the naked eye, it is almost impossible to tell which kind of rubber has been used.

Which synthetic turf  fields are involved?

These are synthetic turf fields for which recycled car tyres are used as filling material (black granules). With the naked eye, it is almost impossible to tell which kind of rubber has been used.

Recommendations for the use of synthetic turf fields

What can I do to minimise exposure?

Exposure can be minimised by not playing with the rubber granulate (only use the field for sporting activities. If you have any concerns, our standard advice would be to shower and put on clean clothes after any training session or match.

What should I/my child pay attention to during sports on synthetic turf fields?

We recommended that you and/or your child do not play with the rubber granulate and you and/or your child take a shower and put on clean clothes after the training session/match.

Is it safe for me/my child to play sports on a synthetic turf field if I/my child has a graze?

Yes. If you and/or  your child have a graze, make sure that the wound is clean and remove any dirt and rubber granules.

Has RIVM previously studied rubber granulate?

RIVM has already done research on rubber granulate on synthetic sports fields. For example, RIVM carried out a risk assessment in 2006 based on existing literature. This included research by Intron, as well as research performed by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.

The organisations KNVB/ NOC*NSF/ WG materialen/ VACO/ DSM/ RecyBEM /TenCate commissioned Intron to perform research into the environmental and health risks of rubber granulate. The research report was published in 2007. An element of this was a study by Industox during which decomposition products of PAHs were measured in the bodies of seven athletes after they had been in contact with rubber granulate.

In 2007, RIVM also assessed this information and advised the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment on this matter. RIVM also investigated the possible risks as a result of the evaporation of nitrosamines. Moreover, at the beginning of 2016, as a result of questions from a regional public health service (GGD), a short description was provided about the substance 2-MBT which is present in rubber granulate. Currently, ECHA is assessing the risks of the presence of this substance in rubber granulate.

How do I know whether rubber granulate has been used as filling material for the field on which I and/or my child play sports? Can you tell by looking at it, and should  I contact the owner of the relevant field?

With the naked eye, it is impossible to tell which kind of rubber has been used on an artificial sports field. To get more clarity on the matter, RIVM recommends that you contact the owner.

Potential risks

Have I and/or my child run a risk by having played sports on a synthetic turf  field for years?

Based on the research we have assessed, we do not currently expect any health risks due to exposure to PAHs from rubber granulate.

Is it still safe for me and/or my child to play sports on a synthetic turfsports field with rubber granulate?

At this point in time, there is no reason to stop playing sports on this kind of artificial sports field.

Can you get cancer from playing sports on a synthetic turf field?

Based on the information we have studied, we do not expect an increased risk of cancer from playing sports on synthetic turf fields.

Can I and/or my child be tested for exposure to PAHs?

It is possible to test for the presence of PAHs in a body. This is not a standard test and therefore it cannot be carried out by a GP. The presence of PAHs in the body says nothing about the chances of falling ill. Moreover, the results of such a test do not say anything about the source of the PAHs. They may also originate from burnt meat, smoking or diesel exhaust fumes. We therefore advise against having a test.

How can people playing sports on artificial sports fields come into contact with the substances in rubber granulate?

Sportsmen can come into contact with substances from rubber granulate in three ways: via the skin (in that case, the substances must be absorbed by the body via the skin), by ingesting rubber granulate and by inhaling chemical volatile compounds in the air above the artificial sports field.

Does playing sports on synthetic turf fields filled with rubber granulate pose a health threat?

RIVM previously concluded that exposure to PAHs and plasticizers is not expected to pose a health threat to people playing sports on artificial sports fields in which rubber granulate is used as filling material. Based on the results of other studies, the same goes for nitrosamines. RIVM does not have any data on other substances that suggest health risks.

Does rubber granulate in artificial sports fields pose environmental risks?

Below you will find the successive conclusions from studies regarding the environmental effects of rubber granulate in artificial sports fields.
At the beginning of 2007, the research firm Intron carried out a study in which it tested and compared rubber granulate that had been used as filling material in sports fields for several years against freshly produced rubber granulate. This showed that more zinc leached out of older rubber granulate than out of new rubber granulate. RIVM has used this data to make a prediction as regards the leaching of zinc in the medium to long term. It turned out that the emission of zinc from rubber granulate does not meet the policy standards and that zinc concentrations in the long run can be too much of an environmental burden on surface water and/or ground water, depending on the local circumstances.

The RIVM predictions have been tested again in a new Intron study (March 2008). This study shows that sunlight (ozone) is responsible for the ageing process and that the leaching of zinc is a continuous process, confirming the previous predictions made by RIVM. In addition, the extent to which zinc bonds with lava has been studied. That study shows that zinc hardly leaches into the environment within the life span (10-15 years) of an artificial sports field, including into the construction base made of lava and sand. In order to protect the environment in the long run, it may be necessary to replace the construction base when replacing the turf, and find an appropriate designated use for the lava and sand that has been replaced.

New research by RIVM

Is RIVM going to carry out research itself?

RIVM has been asked to do research a.s.a.p. This concerns a systematic review to assess the study results in all relevant literature. The findings will be combined with a representative study into the concentrations of PAHs and other substances in the granulate that may have an impact on the health of those using synthetic turf fields health. To that end, active sampling will be perfomed at synthetic sports fields. RIVM will consult with the Scottish experts that were interviewed in the Dutch Zembla TV programme.

RIVM will also contact Belgian counterparts that have announced their intention to research rubber granulate. Further to the results, BuRo, the risk assessment agency of the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) will be asked for advice. The results of this research are expected to be presented before the end of this year.

Previous / other studies

Has RIVM previously researched the potential risks of rubber granulate?

The safety of rubber granulate has been questioned earlier, and research has been carried out into the safety of granulate. This was done, for example, in 2007 when Intron presented a study commissioned by KNVB, NOC*NSF and several other interested companies, with RIVM providing guidance. During this study, a systematic review was performed, substances released into the environment were measured and indicative field research was carried out. In the latter research, volunteers played sports on artificial sports fields, after which their urine samples were tested for increased PAH concentrations. RIVM concluded that the design of this study was limited. However, combined with the other data available, the study provided enough information to assume that using those fields would not result in health risks as a result of exposure to PAHs. A follow-up study was therefore deemed superfluous. It was recommended, however, that any future development should be monitored.

Is the conclusion that synthetic turf fields can be used based on the results of one study?

No, the conclusion is based on several studies. The only study available in 2007 was the study with 7 sportsmen (the IndusTox report), in which the scientists looked into the decomposition products of PAHs in the body of sportsmen that had been in contact with rubber granulate. See also.

Did RIVM itself perform a study into the risk of using rubber granulate?

To date, RIVM has not carried out any experimental research into PAHs related to rubber granulate, but has researched nitrosamines from rubber granulate.

Who is responsible for the safe use of any product?

In Europe, the manufacturer and/or importer of mixtures of substances, such as rubber granulate is responsible pursuant to the REACH regulation, for the safe use of the product. The safety can be assessed on the basis of information regarding characteristics, use and exposure to substances in rubber granulate.

Why is the use of rubber granulate in artificial sports fields only being highlighted now?

RIVM has been providing information on potential health risks of rubber granulate in artificial sports fields for several years via its website. RIVM regularly gives advice on this matter to the Dutch authorities on the basis of new information that becomes available.

What steps will RIVM take in the near future to exclude all risks?

The responsibility for marketing safe products lies with the manufacturers of rubber granulate. In addition, RIVM will carry out research itself.

The information on your website is clear: no reason to panic, playing sports is not a problem. So tell me, why is a new evaluation necessary?

RIVM has recommended that all new information on the health risks of rubber granulate be evaluated because more and more information has become available over the past few years, and it is essential that this information is taken into account too.

What is RIVM’s response to the announcement by RecyBem and VACO that they are going to carry out a study?

RIVM does not know what kind of study the car tyre industry intends to carry out. RIVM does wish to point out, however, that it is hard to interpret the results of a single analysis. On 7 October 2016, Minster Schippers of Health, Welfare and Sport instructed RIVM to conduct research into rubber granulate. This research is a combination of a systematic review and field research involving 50 to 100 synthetic turf  fields. The results of this combined research will indicate  what substances the rubber granulate contains, whether it releases any substances under normal circumstances and whether or not this has any potential health impact. The results are going to be presented in December 2016. It goes without saying that RIVM will continue to show an interest in information from any other party.


boys playing football on sport field with rubber crumbs

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