A new report suggests that certain synthetic chemicals liked to cancer and other serious health problems have been found in artificial grass widely used at schools, parks and other recreational venues.
According to an investigation published by The Intercept on October 8, testing found many artificial grass and turf products contain perfluorinated compounds (PFAS), which are toxic chemicals that have been linked to a potential risk of cancer and other side effects.
PFASs have been used to manufacture a number of products, including food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and firefighting foams. Due to PFAS chemicals ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water, they have become a popular component in artificial grass products.
The Intercept reports that the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental research group based in Michigan, found artificial grass and turf are being manufactured with high levels of PFAS which could be exposing millions of people on a daily basis.
The report indicates researchers performed several tests on different samples of artificial turf and detected significant levels of fluorine compounds, which is seen as an indication of the presence of PFAS.
Artificial grass and turf manufacturers have begun using fluorochemicals to better mold the plastic polymers into a better shape of grass blade. However, this leads to “chemical hitchhikers” left over from the manufacturing process, according to co-author of the study Graham Peaslee, a professor of nuclear physics at the University of Notre Dame.
The mix of chemical components that make up turf fields today has become a recent topic of concern for regulatory agencies. Earlier this year in July, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued a report surrounding the safety of recycled crumb rubber being used to infill turf fields to give them a playable and softer feel.
The EPA report highlighted the rubber material used to make the crumb rubber is broken down from shredded tires and contain dozens of metals and volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds including cadmium, benzene, nickel, chromium, and arsenic, which are all known carcinogens.
PFAS Health Concerns
PFAS were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940’s, because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. However, since then, the chemicals have been linked to a myriad of adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.
The chemicals are projected to take thousands of years to degrade, and past studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water. Previous U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies have shown PFAS chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population.
In June, a federal investigation found that PFAS chemicals are commonly found in numerous food products, including meats, seafood, chocolate, cake and other products. However, the FDA released a statement indicating that the levels found do not raise health concerns, based on the best available science.
3M Company, Tyco Fire Products and Chemguard, Inc. face dozens of fire-fighting foam lawsuits filed by both individuals and municipalities nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the companies knew or should have known about the risks associated with exposure to PFAS within its aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), which has been used by the military over the last several decades during routine fire extinguishing exercises at military bases nationwide.