Thursday, April 05, 2007

Another Ignored City Health Risk?

The following article is from yesterdays issue of Metro NY -

See no evil?

Parks Dept. denies health study of synthetic turf
by patrick arden / metro new york
April 4, 2007

MANHATTAN. The city’s Parks Dept. has refused a request to study possible health risks from synthetic turf fields currently installed at 73 locations and planned for another 40 athletic fields.

Crain became concerned after the city paid $3.9 million for four acres of turf to replace worn natural athletic fields near 107th Street. The new generation of artificial grass consists of green plastic strips poking out of loose rubber crumbs. A boy had told Crain he regularly found the pellets in his shoes.

That rubber comes from recycled tires, and Crain’s toxicology test showed levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) far above safety standards set by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A concentration of the highly carcinogenic benzo(a)pyrene was found to be more than eight times above acceptable soil levels. If this was found in dirt, Crain said, the state would declare the fields contaminated.

Teaming up with Rutgers chemist Junfeng Zhang, Crain repeated the test with a new sample. The new results backed up the first test, but the pair needed more information to determine whether the PAHs in the rubber pellets could be absorbed into the body.

In an Oct. 26 letter to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Crain explained that a third test would use “advanced laboratory procedures” to find out if the PAHs could be taken in through ingestion or skin contact. He asked for permission to collect “about two handfuls of rubber pellets that are loose on the surface of synthetic turf” from one park in each borough. “It is quite possible that there is no realistic risk,” Crain wrote, “but we need the relevant information.”

Two months later, Benepe denied the request in a letter directing further questions to the department’s lawyer. He claimed any samples taken from a park would be “compromised” by the “surrounding environment.” He also said the state’s soil contamination levels were “not an appropriate point of comparison for conditions in the City as they are based on conditions found in rural areas.”

Crain asked Benepe to reconsider in a letter dated Jan. 15. He said for-profit turf manufacturers would be reluctant to provide pellets, and he explained that all samples taken from Parks would be cleaned “to remove extraneous matter” prior to tests. He also wanted to see what happens to the turf over time. Potential funders of the new test had stipulated permission from the Parks Dept. was necessary. As of yesterday, Crain had yet to receive a response.

“They’re just trying to come up with arguments to keep us from doing it,” Crain said. “You don’t want your kids exposed to things considered dangerous, whether it’s in a rural environment or an urban environment.”

Soon after Crain and Zhang published their results last December, they discovered a test conducted for the Norwegian Building Research Institute with a similar conclusion. This week the Parks Dept. cited two studies to discredit Crain; one was funded by the Tire Recycling Management Association of Alberta, Canada. Crain cited numerous studies that concluded more research is required.