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Many questions, few answers about artificial turf

From staff and wire reports -   Sep 20, 2007

Some critics of modern technology that is being used to replace natural grass with synthetic turf on athletic fields around Connecticut are calling for a moratorium until more scientific study is done.

Some people believe there are potential environmental and health risks because the material used as cushioning in the fields _ ground-up rubber tires _ may release harmful chemicals.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has called for $200,000 in state funding for further research after the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven released results of a study of the materials, known as tire crumbs.

The study, which was funded with a $2,000 grant by New Haven-based Environment and Human Health Inc., found that under laboratory conditions, the crumbs released at least four compounds under slightly elevated temperatures that can irritate eyes, skin and mucous membranes.

However, the lead author of the study says the work shows that additional studies are needed, since their testing was done in the lab, not out in the field.

``What we feel this work suggests is additional studies need to be done at actual installed fields,'' Mary Jane Mattina said. There are a lot of these fields being installed and the answers to these questions aren't out there.''

Nancy Alderman, Environment and Human Health's president, said the results of the Connecticut study show enough information to halt the installation of new fields, at least until more work is done.

Rick Doyle, president of the Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group based in Atlanta, cited various studies, including one by FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, that have not found harmful health effects from the fields.

``If Connecticut feels it needs to look at it another time, it's up to them,'' Doyle said.

Blumenthal, who advocates further study, said there should not be a rush to stop using or installing the fields.

``I can understand the confusion and doubt because we don't have all of the answers,'' Blumenthal said. ``I'm simply trying to be completely honest, as a non-scientist and a non-technician, in digesting what I've read and heard from experts, which is that there are several points of view.''

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