A possible correlation between a crumb rubber and sand infill and cancer cases emerged at the May 21 City Council meeting, as aldermen decided on the type of material to use on the new artificial turf surfaces to be built at the new Robert Crown Center. All alternative-surface materials will increase the cost of installing and maintaining the fields, some more than tripling the cost.
Council voted, at least for the moment, to budget for a material composed of recycled shoe soles instead of the crumb-rubber surface. According to the staff memo, using the “Nike blend” increases the cost of infill from $176,700 to $359,100, with an expected similar higher cost each time the material is replaced. The highest-priced option, virgin rubber, would have cost about $627,000.
The motion to go with the Nike blend came from Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward.
“There is a public perception that crumb rubber causes cancer,” said Assistant City Manager Erika Storlie.
Speaking during public comment, John Kennedy said his daughter, who played soccer on crumb-rubber surfaces in high school and college, developed Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She has now recovered, he said, but “no child should ever have to go through” such health issues. He said a soccer coach in Seattle had identified some 237 soccer and football players who developed cancer playing on crumb-rubber surfaces.
City Bureau Chief of Capital Planning Lara Biggs said, there have been no scientific studies linking the surface with increased cancer risk. At this point, evidence is “anecdotal,” she said.
Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said both the federal government and the state of California are in the midst of comprehensive studies, and results should be released prior to the installation of the Robert Crown fields in 2020.
“We’d feel really foolish to have chosen one [surface infill] then have this report come out” linking the chosen infill to cancer, said Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward.
“We’re not going to have our adults and kids playing on any material that causes cancer,” said Mayor Stephen Hagerty.
Ald. Wilson then made his motion, saying the City should budget for the Nike blend.
Ms. Biggs said the contractor could bring in actual cost quotes rather than the rough estimate staff provided, and bring in alternatives based on the various infill options.