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Utah coaches weigh in on alleged artificial turf health risks

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Utah coaches weigh in on alleged artificial turf health risks

By Mary Richards | Posted - Oct. 13, 2014 at 10:13 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — A local high school soccer coach is weighing in, after NBC news investigated a possible link between playing on artificial turf and cancer.

The NBC report specifically focused on goalkeepers, who spend more time in contact with the turf as they dive to make saves and protect their goal. A women's college soccer coach in Washington claimed to have identified 38 players diagnosed with cancer who played on artificial turf and said 34 of them were goalies.

At East High School, head soccer coach Rudy Schenk says he doesn't want to jump to conclusions, but he does think artificial turf bears further research.

"Certainly this story has sparked enough awareness for me personally, and I think for a lot of coaches, that this is something that should be looked into a little further," Schenk says.

He'd also like to see that research expanded to other sports played on artificial turf.


During the past two decades, there have been more than 60 technical studies and reports that review the health effects of crumb rubber as it pertains to toxicities from inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact, as well as cancer. The preponderance of evidence shows no negative health effects associated with crumb rubber in synthetic turf.

–Statement from Synthetic Turf Council


Schenk says his East High teams play at least four games during the pre-season and regular season on artificial turf, and many post season games and tournaments are played on turf, but he knows of many other teams that not only play but also practice on turf regularly.

"It's a little different in that regard for us, because we practice on grass," Schenk says. "I could see it (being) a real issue for somewhere where most of their practice time is on turf."

KSL surveyed a number of high schools in area. Many already have artificial turf and others are considering getting artificial turf in the near future. None of the school districts with artificial turf who spoke to KSL had any particular concerns. Some recreation programs also have access to artificial turf fields= but KSL was not able to reach those programs for comment.

A movement is already underway in parts around the country to get rid of the turfs. Residents in San Francisco and New Jersey will vote in November to decide whether or not to ban artificial turfs, NBC News reported.

"I don't want my son playing on artificial turf," Ed Pertcheck, a San Francisco architect trying to ban the turfs, told NBC News. "I specifically asked his team manager to not have any of their practices or games on artificial turf and she took the request very seriously."

The Synthetic Turf Council has released a statement in response to the NBC News report, saying they have over 60 studies spanning 22 years that prove there are no negative effects from artificial turf.

"During the past two decades, there have been more than 60 technical studies and reports that review the health effects of crumb rubber as it pertains to toxicities from inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact, as well as cancer," the statement read. "The preponderance of evidence shows no negative health effects associated with crumb rubber in synthetic turf."

Contributing: Tracie Snowder

Mary Richards

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