Forum: Synthetic turf industry now pushing new rubber material as safer — is it?

24 Mar.,2023


The company has a group of cooperation teams engaged in the epdm rubber strip industry for many years, with dedication, innovation spirit and service awareness, and has established a sound quality control and management system to ensure product quality.

Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI) is concerned that as the public becomes more aware of the dangers of waste tire crumb rubber infill for synthetic turf fields, industry is pushing another rubber infill product called EPDM rubber. As parents are more concerned about the potential health risks that crumb rubber can pose to their children, industry is advising many towns and schools to pay more and get what they are calling “virgin” rubber, which they are claiming is a safe material for children and students to play on.

Along with these claims, industry is also using alternative names for infill products, making the issue of choosing infills for synthetic turf fields even more confusing. Often when talking about waste tire crumb rubber the initials “SBR” are used. Those initials stand for styrene butadiene rubber and it is simply another name for waste tire crumb rubber.

The public is now asked to deal with the initials “EPDM” rubber — which industry is touting as a safer material to use as infill instead of waste tire crumb rubber .

EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber. This product is also a synthetic rubber and like the waste tires that make crumb rubber, EPDM contains harmful chemicals as well as carbon black.

With industry’s claim that EPDM is a “safer” material than crumb rubber, they are able to charge more for it. Because of the health risks that crumb rubber infill can potentially pose, that crumb rubber material is currently under federal investigation by multiple agencies.

While it is true that crumb rubber infill is made from waste tires and contains carcinogens and heavy metals and therefore poses a health risk for those who play on it, EPDM is also a rubber product and has many of the same health exposure issues as crumb rubber. Both EPDM rubber, as well as waste tire crumb rubber, contain chemicals and heavy metals that pose a health threat to children and students who play on them. The city of Hartford has banned all rubber products that are used as mulch in children’s playgrounds and infill in synthetic turf fields.

How about industry’s claims of EPDM safety?

The Safety Data Sheet for EPDM says the product is a possible cancer hazard — and can be an irritant to lungs, eyes and skin. As well, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluation is that carbon black is possibly carcinogenic to humans and that short-term exposure to high concentration of carbon black dust is a respiratory irritant .

Neither EPDM rubber nor crumb rubber have been proven safe for children and students to play on. These products were not designed to be put where children play. SBR is used to make tires and EPDM is used for hoses, cable joints, car hoses and vehicle sealants.

We hope that people will stop converting their athletic fields from grass that is safe to synthetic turf that poses health risks to children and athletes. The safest surface for students to play on is grass — there is no safer surface.

Nancy Alderman is president of North Haven-based Environment and Human Health Inc.

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