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Playing sports on synthetic turf fields with rubber granulate is safe

Publication date: 20 December 2016
Modificationdate: 31 January 2017

New research by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) shows it is safe for people to play sports on synthetic turf fields with an infill of rubber granulate. Rubber granulate contains numerous substances which were found to be released from the granulate in very low quantities. This is because the substances are more or less ‘enclosed’ in the granulate, which means that the effect of these substances on human health is virtually negligible.

Playing sports on synthetic turf fields

Rubber granulate contains numerous substances, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metals, plasticisers (phthalates) and bisphenol A (BPA). There is little variation in the concentrations of substances between fields and between the measurement points per field. Therefore, the results properly reflect all fields with SBR rubber granulate in the Netherlands.

No link with leukaemia

No indications were found in the available literature of a link between playing sports on synthetic turf fields with an infill of rubber granulate and the incidence of leukaemia and lymph node cancer. Moreover, it is clear from the composition of the rubber granulate that the chemical substances that are capable of causing leukaemia or lymph node cancer are either not present (benzene and 1,3-butadiene) or are present in a very low quantity (2-mercaptobenzothiazole). Since the 1980s, a slight rise has been observed in the number of people aged between 10 and 29 who get leukaemia. This trend has not changed since synthetic turf fields were first used in the Netherlands in 2001.

Recommendation for adjusting the standard

RIVM recommends adjusting the standard for rubber granulate to one that is closer to the standard applicable to consumer products. Rubber granulate is required to satisfy the legal requirements for ‘mixtures’. The standard for consumer products is far more stringent: it allows far lower quantities of PAHs (100 to 1000 times lower) compared with the standard for mixtures. The quantity of PAH in rubber granulate is slightly higher than the standard for consumer products. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is currently conducting research to determine a suitable standard for rubber granulate.

RIVM also completed a study on the consumer product standard for rubber shock absorbing tiles.

More information

See our webpages and FAQ's for more information (currently mostly available in Dutch, more English information will be published soon). RIVM has also opened a national information telephone number to answer questions and concerns: 0800-0480.

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