0 Is the 3G position statement premature?

In what appears to be a 'gathering of the clans', key UK stakeholders have stated that 3G artificial grass pitches with rubber crumb infill are safe.

The governing bodies of four sports, along with SAPCA, the IOG and the Department for Culture Media and Sport cited the European Chemicals Agency's (ECHA) findings and independent scientific studies in reaching their conclusion. The statement read:

"This position statement is the result of a collaboration between key stakeholders in response to questions and concerns regarding 'third generation'' (3G) artificial grass pitches.

Third generation or 3G artificial grass pitches are recognised as durable, safe, year-round playing surfaces, able to withstand intensive use and all kinds of weather. They mean more people can benefit from all the associated social and health benefits of physical activity.

Concerns have, however, been raised about the safety associated with these pitches and their constituent parts, most commonly the presence of rubber crumb. We take these concerns very seriously.

We have monitored numerous independent scientific studies on this issue, which have reported a very low/negligible level of concern for human health as a result of 3G pitches and rubber crumb.

Indeed, the European Chemicals Agency has recently published its own findings, following an extensive EU-wide study, and has found no reason to advise people against playing sport on 3G pitches with rubber crumb.

The Sports and Play Construction Association, the UK trade body for the sports pitch industry, is developing a voluntary industry standard that will provide minimum requirements that go above and beyond what is currently required for rubber crumb under European regulation. Sport England and leading sport governing bodies all support this approach and will continue to work with the industry to provide reassurance that pitches in this country are safe."

The ECHA's findings have already been shown to be inconclusive based, as they are, on the same independent studies the position statement alludes to.

Indeed, the ECHA state, quite clearly, that it is uncertain to what extent their findings are representative, that there are knowledge gaps in their report and that the combined effects of all the substances in rubber granules are not known and very difficult to assess! Don't swallow!

Pitchcare has called for all parties in the UK and the EU to await the findings of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) in the USA before nailing their colours to the mast. Clearly, the parties involved in this UK position statement do not concur.

Over in the USA, following inconclusive results about the health effects of artificial sports fields, the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury is urging school district officials to take a closer look at how and when they use artificial turf and engage school communities on the topic.

The Grand Jury is recommending that school districts stop using artificial turf derived of recycled rubber tyres until the ongoing study by the EPA provides further data on the health effects of using tyre-derived products on athletic fields, or until they write decision-making guidelines that take the safety, cost and suitability of materials used to create artificial turf into account

The Grand Jury is recommending that school districts stop using artificial turf derived of recycled rubber tyres until the ongoing study by the EPA provides further data on the health effects of using tyre-derived products on athletic fields, or until they write decision-making guidelines that take the safety, cost and suitability of materials used to create artificial turf into account.

We believe this is a far more responsible approach than the one currently being adopted in the UK, and one that we fully support.

Meanwhile, in the EU, the very agency that the UK position statement is based on - the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) - is considering outlawing rubber crumb - which has a high level of carcinogens - from April 2018.

The move has been proposed by Dutch experts after a number of studies questioned the safety of rubber crumb. But this has been opposed by the industry who said it wasn't needed and would be costly to implement.

Dutch scientists have lodged a proposal with the ECHA which, if accepted, will be rolled out across all of Europe from April 2018.

Former NHS boss Nigel Maguire, believes his teenage son Lewis's cancer was caused by the rubber crumb he played on as a goalkeeper.

Nigel, a former chief executive of NHS Cumbria, has welcomed the potential ban, but said he is angry it is Dutch scientists proposing the law change and not Brits.

He said: "For the last two years, I have been writing about the potential dangers of rubber crumb. Despite this, I have been ignored by everyone, including the British government."

Dutch scientists have the same access to information and scientific databases as British scientists, so why aren't we drawing the same conclusions? It is obscene so little research has been done. This multibillion-dollar industry is conducting an industrial-scale experiment on our kids - it's a scandal.

"Dutch scientists have the same access to information and scientific databases as British scientists, so why aren't we drawing the same conclusions?"

Nigel has called for a moratorium on building new 3G pitches and wants rugby and goalkeeping training on them banned until more research is done. "It is obscene so little research has been done. This multibillion-dollar industry is conducting an industrial-scale experiment on our kids - it's a scandal."

Professor Andrew Watterson, an environmental health expert from the University of Stirling, said: "If the proposal is accepted, this will present a test for the crumb rubber industry, which has resisted calls for the lower toy chemical exposures to apply to their products. They view the step as unnecessary."

"As we learn more about pre-natal and post-natal exposures over decades to many chemicals in many products and try to assess their cumulative health impacts, caution could be a smart move."

"It would, therefore, seem to make good sense to adopt the precautionary public health policy now being advocated by the Dutch."

A spokesman for the ECHA said: "The Netherlands has notified its intention to prepare the restriction proposal on PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in granules used as infill material in synthetic turf. The ECHA will support the Netherlands in its work. Additional information will be collected during the process and actions will be formulated and/or recommended as appropriate."

A spokesman for SAPCA said: "We have developed a voluntary industry standard that will provide minimum requirements that go above and beyond what is currently required for rubber crumb under European regulation."

"Sport England and leading sport governing bodies all support this approach and will continue to work with the industry to provide reassurance that pitches in this country are safe."

As we have said all along, rubber crumb may eventually be deemed to be perfectly safe. It is only at that point that we will stop reporting on the possible health concerns surrounding its use; and the inconsistencies and erratic thinking shown by interested parties in the UK.

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