La news

THAT ADDS VALUE TO INFORMATION FROM THE SECTOR

#2 – DECEMBER 2017

Is there a risk for humans or the environment as a result of exposure to the crumb rubber used in synthetic play areas?

To answer this concern raised by players, local authorities and sports organisations, more than 90 studies have been conducted in recent years around the world to verify that playing on synthetic surfaces is without danger. These studies have mainly focused on evaluating toxicity and the ecological risk. What conclusions have they drawn? Synthetic sports surfaces filled with crumb rubber do not pose any danger for either the health of the players or for the environment.

As already said in 2017 by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), “there is no point advising people to stop playing sport on synthetic turf containing recycled rubber granulate”. The key players in the French synthetic surfaces sector (sport and leisure equipment, manufacturers of surfaces, tyre collectors, granulators, design consultants, contractors, etc.) all work together on a daily basis from a perspective of responsibility and transparency with a single objective: to make play areas that pose no danger, and that have no risk for either health or the environment, available to users.

what is a synthetic surface?

Synthetic surfaces are composed of a mat of synthetic turf, into which is generally added a ballast bed of sand, covered with a layer of loose granulate, most often in the form of crumb rubber.
  1. Today, the elements that imitate the blades of grass 1. are often made of polypropylene or coloured polypropylene, more rarely polyamide or polyester, in the form of mono-filaments or fibrillated tapes. These fibres are attached to a mat of polypropylene tapes coated in latex.
  2. For the most part, the granulate is made from recycled tyres shredded into a fine crumb. There are other sorts of infill (thermoplastic elastomers, EPDM, polyethylene, etc.) and plant-based alternatives using cork granulate or a mixture of coconut fibres and cork.
  3. Sand is a natural product.
  4. The mat is commonly called the “back” and made mainly of polypropylene.

In 2017, adopted a clear-cut position

After the questions raised by the media in 2016, FIFA appealed to its medical committee so as to clarify its position regarding the harmlessness of synthetic turf with crumb rubber. In April 2017, on the basis of a very large number of studies carried out on the subject, FIFA confirmed its position, that is, that there is no element that makes it possible to demonstrate that playing on synthetic turf containing crumb rubber could be dangerous for health. The effect of this crumb rubber is as negligible for health as barbecued meat!

Synthetic turf: the reasons for its success

Today, synthetic turf is a solution that has been approved by the very highest football authorities, from the French Football Federation (FFF) to FIFA and UEFA. The qualification matches for the FIFA World Cup can now take place on these surfaces.
  • Durability: 10 to 15 years’ life expectancy.
  • Use time: 50 hours per week versus 6 to 10 hours for natural turf.
  • Low maintenance: 2 to 3 times less maintenance than natural turf – no mowing.
  • Environmentally-friendly: no fertilisers or plant-health products.
  • Water savings: 3,200 m3 of water saved per year from watering, or the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool.
  • Indifferent seasonality: synthetic turf does not freeze in winter, or dry out in summer.
  • Comfort when playing: identical, if not better, playing sensations.

Products regulated by
very strict standards

The different components are regulated by French and European standards:
  • the (recycled) crumb rubber is covered by the standard CEN TS 14243 ;
  • synthetic turf as a whole is covered by the standards NF EN 15 330 and NF P 90-112 ;
  • the French Football Federation requires that all these standards be respected, and ensures that this is the case by controlling synthetic pitches. Similar tests are carried out by FIFA.

Strict European regulations called REACH control the use of the chemical substances found in all these products. Since 2010, tyre products in the countries in the European Union have been in conformity with these regulations. The crumb rubber used as infill in synthetic turf thus also respects the REACH regulations.

The Aliapur sector1 , which is the exclusive supplier for the French manufacturers of crumb rubber, is able to guarantee that 100% of the tyres used have been collected in France and that more than 95% of them come from Premium manufacturers.

The rigorous traceability system implemented by Aliapur, and recognised by the many audits that have been carried out, including one by the French Court of Audit, is the absolute guarantee of the quality of the product, and attests that the standards in force have been respected.

The French manufacturers of crumb rubber are subjected to tests by independent laboratories (Labosport, Novarea, C2S, etc.): these laboratories analyse samples of crumb rubber taken at random from production sites. The laboratories are also involved during the installation of the synthetic turf at the request of local authorities.

When these laboratories analyse crumb rubber, the results obtained are comparable with those obtained in the field of toys. Thanks to the implementation of standardised industrial processes, as well as respecting the strict specifications of local authorities, French synthetic turf is extremely safe.

More than 90 scientific studies have shown a total absence of danger for health

For many years, Europe and its Member States (France, the Netherlands, etc.), as well as the United States, have taken an interest in the questions associated with the subject of the potential risks for health that synthetic play area surfaces containing crumb rubber may pose. Several recent studies with concurring analyses are of a kind that will reassure both players and all the other key actors concerned with the installation of such surfaces terrains. The studies currently available do not indicate any danger associated with the use of rubber granulate in synthetic turf.

STUDY 1

EEDEMS2 scientific group (7 public and private sector establishments: INSA, ENTPE, CSTB, BRGM, Mines de St-Etienne, IRSTEA, INSAValor3 ), 2005 to 2011

The context: In 2005, certain articles in the press raised questions regarding the use of crumb rubber in synthetic pitches. In partnership with ADEME, Aliapur undertook a programme of scientific studies with the EEDEMS to assess the environmental and health impact of the different infill materials used in synthetic turf.

The results: Year after year, the results showed that the water in contact with the synthetic turf was not polluted and did not reveal any impact on the environment in the short or medium term. In parallel, the inhalation of the VOC (volatile organic compounds) emitted by the synthetic turf was inoffensive for human health. According to an Evaluation des Risques Sanitaires (Assessment of Health Risks) carried out by the Institut National de l’Environnement Industriel et des Risques (French National Institute for the Industrial Environment and Risks, INERIS4), the risks associated with inhaling the VOC emitted by synthetic floor surfaces in either “outdoor” or “indoor” situations were not a concern for human health.

STUDY 2

The Health Department of the State of Washington5, April 2017

The context: A female football coach raised the question of a possible link between synthetic pitches and the onset of cases of cancer among football players. The Health Department of the State of Washington analysed the list drawn up by this coach.

The results: The Health Department of the State of Washington did not observe an incidence of cancer that was higher in football players than in the general population, and recommended that people who enjoyed playing football should continue to do so, regardless of the type of pitch.

STUDY 3

RIVM6 (the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment), December 2016

The context: A media campaign on the same subject took place in the Netherlands in 2016. The Dutch government thus commissioned from the RIVM a chemical evaluation of the crumb rubber.

The results: The RIVM study confirmed that it is not dangerous to play sport on synthetic turf with crumb rubber infill because the different components were revealed to be liberated in very low quantities, meaning that their effect on human health is negligible. The Dutch government confirmed the authorisation to play on these synthetic pitches.

STUDY 4

ECHA7 (European Chemicals Agency), February 2017

The context: the European Commission asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to determine whether certain substances present in crumb rubber could pose a risk for human health.

The results: ECHA concluded that exposure to crumb rubber posed a very low level of risk, and did not find any reason to recommend that people stop playing sport on synthetic turf.

The conclusions of these four major studies are all in agreement: the effect on human health is negligible, and people who enjoy playing football should continue to do so regardless of the type of pitch.

Stop the preconceived ideas!

Fiction : crumb rubber contains many carcinogenic products.

Reality: the main chemical compounds that are highlighted in the synthetic turf controversy are PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), arsenic, chromium, lead, hydrocarbons or benzene. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), these chemical compounds, in low quantities, are harmless for human health. They are present in our daily lives at doses that are sometimes much higher than those observed in crumb rubber: there is less arsenic in this crumb than in rice, less benzene than in lobster or sodas, less chromium and lead than in natural floor surfaces.

Finally, the employees in the rubber industry and synthetic turf manufacturing industry who work in daily contact with rubber are not subject to health problems that are any different to those of the rest of the active population8.

Fiction : crumb rubber can come from anywhere.

Reality: the crumb rubber is produced solely in France or neighbouring European Union countries. Strict European regulations, known as REACH, control the use of chemical substances in all products. The tyres produced in the European Union since 2010 conform perfectly to these regulations. The crumb rubber used as infill in synthetic turf thus also respects the REACH regulations.

Fiction : there are no studies on the subject so it is not possible to make a decision.

Reality: more than 90 studies with concurring results are available to reassure as much those who play on synthetic pitches, as all the actors concerned by the installation of this type of surface. The studies available to date do not indicate any dangers associated with the use of crumb rubber in synthetic pitches.

These studies were also carried out by renowned organisations such as the European Chemicals Agency, the Health Department of the State of Washington, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) or ADEME (the Agency for the Environment and Mastery of Energy) and INERIS (the French National Institute for the Industrial Environment and Risks) in France.

Fiction : • playing on a synthetic pitch made with crumb rubber increases the risk of developing cancer.

Reality: no studies have made it possible to establish a link between crumb rubber and cancer. In addition to the reassuring European studies, the University of California in Berkeley9 has written one of the most comprehensive reports published to date. It includes an examination of all the studies carried out in the last twelve years.

It emphasises: « regular exposure […] to ground rubber for the length of one’s childhood does not increase risk of cancer above levels considered by the state of California to be de minimus (i.e. a lifetime excess cancer risk of 1 in 1 million) »

Fiction : crumb rubber has been banned in other countries.

Reality: no government has banned crumb rubber. For example, in neighbouring countries, the Dutch government confirmed in April 2017 that its pitches were safe. The vast majority of the pitches built in 2017 in Europe and the United States were built using crumb rubber.

Answers to your questions

Why is rubber granulate used in synthetic turf sports surfaces?

Synthetic turf sports surfaces must provide the playing characteristics required by the sport in question, whilst offering the players a level of comfort and protection that is adapted when they run, fall or slide on the surface.

It was the development at the end of the 1990s of synthetic turf with long fibres (or 3G) containing a mixture of sand and rubber granulate that ultimately encouraged those responsible for sports such as football or rugby to consider synthetic turf as an appropriate solution for replacing natural grass.

In order to benefit from the same playing characteristics as those of natural grass, these surfaces generally have fibres that are 40 to 65 mm long. These fibres would flatten if there were no infill, but by partially filling the spaces between the tufts of individual fibres, it is possible to keep them upright so that they can provide all the characteristics required by sports organisations such as FIFA and World Rugby.

What are the advantages of synthetic turf with crumb rubber infill?

This new generation of synthetic turf differs from previous ones because it uses fibres with greater durability, and incorporates shock-absorbing granulate as the infill material. These new surfaces have also succeeded in satisfying the requirements of the professional sports world.

These types of surface have undeniable advantages for sports clubs and groups, including:

  • increasing the number of hours of use of the pitches throughout the year, regardless of the weather conditions,
  • stable performances over time with limited maintenance and upkeep in comparison with a natural lawn.
Is the crumb rubber used in synthetic turf dangerous for health?

No. For 30 years, more than 90 credible, independent studies have been carried out and confirm the safety and harmless nature of these surfaces. More recently, in 2016 and 2017, the American, Dutch and European public authorities started to take an interest in this public health matter. As a result, three studies were carried out and all concluded that the crumb rubber in synthetic turf poses no risk for health. See the previous page for the summary of these studies.

Which standards cover these products?

The various different elements are covered by the following standards:

  • the crumb rubber made from tyre is covered by the standard CEN TS 14243 ;
  • synthetic turf as a whole is covered by the European standards NF EN 15 330
    and the French standard NF P 90-112;
  • respect of these standards is one of the aspects verified by the French Football Federation during their controls of synthetic pitches;
  • similar tests are also carried out systematically by FIFA.

Strict European regulations called REACH regulate the use of the chemical substances in all these products. Since 2010, tyre products in the countries of the European Union are in conformity with these regulations. The crumb rubber used as infill in synthetic turf thus also respects the REACH regulations.

How can we consider that the crumb rubber used in synthetic turf is harmless when we know it contains chemical substances?

The study carried out in 2017 by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) concluded that all the chemical substances contained in crumb rubber are detected in such low quantities that the effects of human health are negligible.

Which organisations have recently studied the possible dangerousness of synthetic turf, and what are their conclusions?

Infill made from crumb rubber has been the subject of many studies since the end of the 1990s. More than 90 credible, independent studies have been carried out on this subject: they have all confirmed the safety of synthetic turf surfaces manufactured with infill based on crumb rubber. Recently, three new studies have confirmed the absence of risks for health:

  • The Health Department of the State of Washington did not observe a higher cancer rate in football players than within the general population and recommended that all people who enjoy playing football keep on playing, regardless of the type of pitch.
  • The results of the RIVM study showed that it is not dangerous to play sports on synthetic turf with a crumb rubber infill. The chemical substances in this crumb are detected in infinitesimal quantities. Their effects on human health are thus practically negligible.
  • The ECHA concluded that exposure to crumb rubber presented a very low level of risk, and did not find any reason to recommend that people not play sports on synthetic sports surfaces.
From production to installation, what kinds of controls have been set up for synthetic sports surfaces?

The French manufacturers of crumb rubber are subjected to testing by independent laboratories (Labosport, Novarea, C2S, etc.): these laboratories analyse samples of crumb rubber taken randomly from production sites, and also intervene during the installation of synthetic sports surfaces at the request of local authorities.

When these laboratories analysed the crumb rubber, the results obtained were comparable with those imposed on the toy sector.

Thanks to the implementation of standardised industrial processes, as well as the respect of the strict specifications of local authorities, French synthetic turf is extremely safe.

Where do the tyres that are used as the raw material to make granulate in France come from?

The rigorous traceability system implemented by Aliapur, recognised by a large number of audits (including that by the French Court of Audits), is the absolute guarantee of quality and of the respect of the standards in force.

Is infill made from rubber granulate the only solution? If not, what are the other options?

For the most part, the granulate is made from tyres shredded into a fine crumb.

There are other types of infill (thermoplastic elastomers, EPDM, polyethylene, etc.) and so-called “organic”, plant-based alternatives made from cork granulate or blends of coconut fibres.

It should nevertheless be noted that for any infill material, the ability to produce the performances required must be rigorously tested beforehand.

Did a study by Yale University/EHHI (USA) mention a risk for health?

The methodology cited by the authors has raised serious doubts among the best American toxicologists.

Michael Peterson, one of the most renowned American toxicologists, a professor at Duke University in the USA and a Diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology, explained: “As a toxicologist with nearly two decades of experience in human health risk assessment, I do not believe that the EHHI study, or Yale study, as it is called, provides any scientific evidence that synthetic turf infill poses a risk to children or adults using these surfaces. The EHHI study looked at the tyre crumb rubber and tried to determine what chemicals could be extracted by using a chemical commonly found in paint strippers. That is not a realistic way to evaluate exposure based on real-world scenarios. In addition, the study was never peer-reviewed and there is not a published manuscript of this study. Given that, it is hard to evaluate how relevant the EHHI is for evaluating health risks.”

A recent interview talks about chemicals for producing the crumb rubber. What is this really about?

The production of this crumb rubber does not require the addition of chemicals. The tyres are transformed into crumb by extracting the rubber using high-performance industrial tools. There is no chemical transformation of this rubber.

Finally, the tyres used to manufacture the crumb are collected from garages and their average age is only 5 year. These tyres are thus not obtained from fly-tipping sites, but instead benefit from perfect traceability.

You keep talking about the ECHA: what is it?

The ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) is a public organisation of the European Union that is independent of industry. The work of the European Chemicals Agency makes it possible to ensure that products are used in complete safety.

A local authority would like to carry out its own tests on crumb rubber? Yes, it’s possible!

In addition to the controls and tests carried out beforehand within the sector of the manufacturers of crumb rubber, the municipalities and local authorities who so desire can carry out additional tests on the crumb rubber when the synthetic turf is installed, or at any other time. Independent laboratories (Labosport, Novarea, C2S, etc.) are available to municipalities for this type of mission

For further information, contact Fedairsport: www.fedairsport.com

The Syndicat National du Caoutchouc et des Polymères (French National Union of Rubber and Polymer Manufacturers) groups together more than 110 companies that transform rubber (tyres, technical parts, adhesive tapes, articles for the general public, etc.) or suppliers (raw materials, equipment, etc.).

The member companies employ 45,000 people and have an annual turnover of € 9 billion.

There are five fields of action: social relations, environment, economic affairs, standardisation and R&D, communication.

For further information:
www.lecaoutchouc.com

The Fédération des Acteurs des Équipements de Sports et de loisirs (French Federation for Sport and Leisure Equipment Key Players, FEDAIRSPORT) is an association of general interest in the field of sport and leisure equipment.

Fedairsport provides its know-how and solid technical knowledge for its members, be they local authorities or anyone interested in better understanding the sport and leisure equipment sector.

Fedairsport is a platform for exchanging and working together, bringing together all the key players in the sport and leisure equipment sector, from the contractor to the user, so that they can work together to promote and enhance the premises on which high quality sport and leisure activities take place, from a sustainable development perspective.

Fedairsport reinforces the exchanges regarding innovation in the field of the premises on which sport and leisure activities take place, and organises actions designed to develop the sector.

For further information:
www.fedairsport.com

Since 2004, Aliapur has been the reference eco-organisation for the collection and recycling of end-of-life tyres. Its founding shareholders are Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli. Aliapur has a mission of public service, and it is included in the French Environmental Code.

The company is financed exclusively by the eco-tax (€ 1.25 for a passenger vehicle tyre in 2017), and every year it is responsible for more than 75% of the volumes of tyres left by car owners at the premises of car industry professionals, or the equivalent of more than 45 million tyres.s

Aliapur guarantees a second life for every tyre, through re-use, material recycling or energy recovery.

For further information:
www.aliapur.fr