Edmonds City Council votes to temporarily ban crumb rubber turf on fields out of health concerns

EDMONDS, Wash. -- The Edmonds City Council voted Tuesday night to ban, at least temporarily, crumb rubber turf on publicly owned sports fields because of concerns that it could be putting the health of children at risk.

The ban will take place in 30 days. The City Council plans to review studies on crumb rubber turf  during the next year and a half and then possibly make the ban permanent.

Students are enjoying their new turf at the former Woodway High School. But parents say this artificial grass isn’t greener than what they used to have. They’re concerned about crumb rubber -- the recycled tire pieces used in the field.

“There are carcinogens and toxins in this,” says Laura Johnson, the mother of a 9-year-old son.  “The children are inhaling it. It is a dust that gets in them, they track it home.”

On Nov. 10, parents packed an Edmonds City Council meeting, calling for a crumb rubber ban for future fields.

UW soccer coach Amy Griffin supports the ban.

“I feel like we all need to be careful, because of the unknowns.”

Griffin raised concerns about crumb rubber several years ago, after some young soccer goalies that she knew were diagnosed with the same type of cancer.  The Washington Department of Health is now using her data on other athletes with cancer and conducting their own study on crumb rubber safety. Griffin knows it could take years before they come to any conclusions.

“No one has given me definitive answers, but they've all said this is something worth looking into.”

Edmonds is not the only city or school district using synthetic turf. We asked several of them if they were worried about potential risks. Seattle Public Schools told us their fields have been tested by the EPA. The Tacoma School District said they are not aware of any credible studies indicating any health concerns.

Johnson tells us that’s not good enough for her.

“I say that lack of proof of harm is not proof of safety, and our children deserve more.”

She’s decided to keep her son away from fields like this, until she is sure he will be safe. But she doesn’t want any kids to be put at risk, so she’s hopes Edmonds will be one of the first cities in Washington to ban crumb rubber.

“I appreciate greatly that my City Council is taking the time to discuss this. They’ve asked the questions, they have the information, and they’re concerned.”