Bellingham School District is making a terrible mistake.
Dr. Greg Baker, the current superintendent of the Bellingham School District, is quickly building a new artificial turf sports stadium at Bellingham High School. Squalicum High School’s new crumb rubber artificial turf field has already been installed. Sehome High School’s shredded rubber field is coming soon. The advisory committee, having been informed that shredded tires are safe, happily rubber-stamped the idea. School district employees did some research and found assurances from the tire recycling industry that their crumb rubber artificial turf is safe. The Whatcom County Health Department apparently approved crumb rubber use based on these flawed industry assurances.
Crumb rubber is a relatively new, benign-sounding name for a toxic product made of carcinogens, poisons, heavy metals and neurotoxins in the form of shredded tires. If you have ever watched a game played on artificial turf you may have noticed a cloud of black dust puff into the air every time the ball bounces on the green plastic field. This is a telltale sign of artificial turf made from shredded tires.
Natural rubber makes up only 15-20% of the volume of a tire made in the United States. The principal chemical components of synthetic rubber tires are styrene and butadiene. Styrene is a neurotoxin, and butadiene has been shown to cause leukemia and lymphoma. Then add tire black, benzene, lead, and mercury; all are known carcinogens and neurotoxins. They can cause permanent brain damage in infants, and remember, adjacent to the new Bellingham High School field is the Options school, future home of pregnant high school teens and their infants.
Mercaptobenzothiazole, toxic to aquatic life (think Whatcom Creek)
Dimethylanthracene, a respiratory irritant that can also cause asthma
Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, which may also damage fetuses (adjacent Options Facility)
Phthalimide, also a skin, eye and lung irritant.
Tetratriacontane, an eye and skin irritant that can cause damage to central nervous system.
Pyrene, which is toxic to the liver and kidneys
The Huffington Post recently published an article on the dangers of artificial turf featuring Amy Griffin, an associate head coach for the University of Washington women’s soccer team, and a goalkeeper for the U.S. National team, winners of the first Women’s World Cup in 1991. Griffin has been informally tracking American soccer players with cancer since 2009 when she noticed that a “stream of kids” who had played soccer on artificial fields had been getting sick. Griffin told NBC in 2014 that she’d heard from 38 soccer players who’d been diagnosed with cancer. That tally has climbed to 220 athletes — 166 of them soccer players. The number continues to grow as more cancer victims read about the connection to artificial turf fields.
One “advantage” to the Bellingham School District in choosing to use crumb rubber artificial turf is cost. The artificial turf field for BHS was $1.75 million. In 2013, voters approved “turf” for the three high schools as part of a $140 million school levy. For the three high school sites, multiply $1.75 million times three for an estimated total cost of $5.25 million. With interest, figure another 50%, so call it $8 million. Now add lights, a public address system, and bleachers, and the school district has three sports fields…with known cancer-causing toxins.
Now is the time to step in and halt this plan that will expose our children to known health risks. Re-turfing the fields with natural grass fields is simple and relatively cheap. Real grass fields are safe, and with improved drainage and reasonable usage they will serve us better than new toxic turf.
Call your School Board today and demand they halt the toxic artificial turf. Encourage them to choose safe, natural, grass fields as the safest alternative for our kids. Especially given the growing evidence of cancer risk from crumb rubber fields.
Contact information: Bellingham School Board
Douglas Benjamin, School Board President
Kelly Bashaw, School Board Vice President
Camille Diaz Hackler, School Board Director
Quenby M. Peterson, School Board Director
Steven Smith, School Board Director