In response to a request from the Scientific Advisory Board, RIVM conducted an international review of the rubber granulate study. The scientific sounding board group that was consulted on the study on the “Evaluation of health risks of playing sports on synthetic turf pitches with rubber granulate” consisted exclusively of national experts from the Netherlands. The Scientific Advisory Board therefore asked RIVM to arrange for an international review of the research report.
To that end, RIVM contacted reviewers from three prominent institutes who are experienced in risk assessment within regulatory frameworks. Reviewers from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) (on personal title), the German Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) assessed the report and provided their findings. RIVM is very appreciative of the expert response.
The conclusions from these reviews largely echo the debate on rubber granulate in society and are an important reflection on the work done by RIVM. These reviews assist us in ongoing discussions with our fellow risk assessors and the Ministries that commission our work. The original summaries of the reviews have been posted on the RIVM website (in the right column of this page).
Primary conclusions from the reviews and response from RIVM
It is clear that there are different views on the desirability of playing sports on rubber granulate, not only in the social but also in the scientific field. The RIVM report on rubber granulate can be used by parties in society for making an assessment whether or not to use rubber granulate. A consideration in which besides the health aspects also environmental aspects, costs, the perception of risks of citizens and social acceptance play a role. These are not covered in the report and it is up to the competent authorities to weigh/assess these aspects. Naturally, there are many aspects that can be further investigated, also in an international context. RIVM has already indicated that 'the book on rubber granulate' cannot be closed. We follow the discussions and new studies on the effects of rubber granules on health. We have carried out a risk assessment of the current situation and concluded that playing sports on rubber granulate is safe, as far as the effects of rubber granulate on health are concerned. The effect of these substances on human health is virtually negligible. In addition to the results on the health effects, two topics emerged that RIVM continued to implement in 2017 and 2018. In the 2016 study, the environmental risks of rubber granulate were not taken into account, but RIVM did (again) point to these environmental risks. Moreover, there were many questions from society about the environmental aspects of synthetic turf fields with rubber infill. For this reason, RIVM submitted a research proposal to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works in mid-2017. This led to the commission for an exploratory environmental study in which RIVM maps to what extent rubber granulate as infill affects the environment. The results of this research are expected to be public by mid-2018. Secondly, it emerged that the limit value for PAHs in rubber granulate is high. If the concentration of PAHs is actually as high as the standard allows, then a safe level cannot be guaranteed. That is why RIVM, together with ECHA, has started a process to establish a new limit value.
In addition, RIVM has repeated a number of the experiments originally conducted in the study, particularly the experiments on migration into gastrointestinal fluids. These data results were in line with the experiments conducted previously. Additional analytical research has been carried out to see if we have overlooked important substances in the risk assessment. This appeared to not be the case. The supplementary data will be published on the website.