Artificial Turf

Artificial turf is made out of a number of different materials.  However, one component that helps to provide cushion is called crumb rubber.  These tiny pieces of rubber are made from used tires that have been ground up into pellets.  This crumb rubber is the suspected cause of cancer that has affected a number of athletes lately.  If you have been exposed to artificial turf, and you have been diagnosed with cancer, you may be able to file an artificial turf lawsuit and collect compensation to cover medical bills and other damages.  Schedule your free case review with an attorney from Arentz Law Group P.C. today by calling 1-800-305-6000, or by filling out the contact form on this page.

The Beginning of Artificial Turf

Long before artificial turf began being used for sporting arenas, people had developed outdoor carpet.  This carpet was essentially the same idea, but wasn’t really developed for heavy foot traffic.  That changed in 1965 when Monsanto invented their product “ChemGrass.”  The first major application for this new artificial turf was in the Houston Astrodome, a new arena that was not well suited for growing natural grass due to the lack of sunlight.  The product quickly became known as AstroTurf, and ChemGrass was rebranded to reflect this new name.

Despite the novelty of this new fake grass, AstroTurf did have some downfalls.  Primarily, the turf was hard and many players complained of sustaining injuries when they fell onto it.  This did not stop AstroTurf from being the industry leader (in fact basically the only product on the market), until around the year 2000 when competition arose.

Artificial Turf’s Development

In the early 2000’s a company named FieldTurf entered the market.  They developed a product similar, but substantially better than AstroTurf.  However, they were sued, and AstroTurf’s company was awarded $1.5 million in a lawsuit.  The lawsuits and competition took its toll on AstroTurf which ended up going out of business by 2004.

This paved the way for other companies to enter the game.  The technology was developing and artificial turf now began to incorporate crumb rubber.  These rubber pellets helped to provide even more padding, and they helped the environment by keeping thousands of tires out of landfills.  Crumb rubber, while effective, has ultimately been the cause of many problems.

Crumb Rubber

One of the main components of artificial turf is called crumb rubber.  These rubber pellets are made from grinding up old car and truck tires, and then they are sprinkled on the grass so they settle between the synthetic blades.  The result is a padded surface that doesn’t hurt as much when an athlete falls against it.  However, since they are not adhered to the turf, they have a tendency to bounce out from between the blades.

How the Rubber Enters the Body

If you ask any athlete that plays on artificial turf, if they have come into contact with crumb rubber, they will answer in an astounding affirmative.  This rubber, it seems, gets everywhere.  After every practice, scrimmage, and game, the players are cleaning rubber pellets out of their clothes, hair, nostrils, and mouths.  Some even say that every season they know they swallow hundreds of the little rubber pellets.

Any time a player hits the ground, the pellets bounce up.  Most of the time they settle back in between the blades of grass, but often they will get stuck in hair, clothes, against skin that is damp with sweat, or embedded into open abrasions or cuts on the player’s body.  If the athlete hits just right, and a cluster of pellets bounce up in front of their face, it is highly likely some will get into the mouth where they will be swallowed or inhaled.

Once inside the body, the chemicals and toxins that comprise the rubber start to take their toll.  While feelings of being sick may present right away, the true damage is done over the next several years.  Carcinogens in the rubber spark the development of cancer, primarily those related to the blood like Lymphoma and Leukemia.  It may take several years for the athlete to finally be diagnosed with one of these rare forms of cancer.

Known Carcinogens in Crumb Rubber

Despite the claims that the levels of carcinogens in tires is low enough to be safe, these tires still do contain dangerous chemicals and heavy metals.  For instance, any given tire may contain:

ArsenicArsenic is a naturally occurring mineral that is deadly when consumed.  It is not only poisonous, but can also lead to development of certain cancers.

BenzeneBenzene is a natural part of crude oil.  It is highly flammable and makes up an important combustion component of gasoline.

CadmiumCadmium is a heavy metal similar to zinc and mercury.  It was primarily used in battery production, but has a number of other uses as well.

NickelNickel is a naturally occurring metal that is prized for its luster.  The metal, however, has a multitude of other uses.

LeadLead is a heavy metal that is known to be toxic.  It is safe if not consumed, but accidental inhalation or ingestion can lead to serious problems.

Since there is little regulation on tire production, it is difficult to know just what chemicals and toxins are present in tires.  It varies by manufacturer, and manufacturing origin.  However, it is safe to say that if a person consumes, inhales, or otherwise gets pieces of tire inside their body, the chemicals, metals, and toxins can cause serious damage.

Types of Cancer Caused by Artificial Turf

There have been a number of cases, especially among soccer goal keepers (due to the fact they hit the ground more often than other players), of cancer.  The most common are cancers of the blood.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (and the related non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) is one of the most common types of cancer caused by exposure to crumb rubber.  This disease attacks the white blood cells in the body, weakening the immune system.  The white blood cells are what destroy the bacteria and other germs that could otherwise cause illness.  Without the white blood cells, the body is essentially defenseless.

Leukemia is another blood cancer that can be caused by exposure to crumb rubber.  Similar to lymphoma (Hodgkin’s is a type of lymphoma), leukemia affects the white blood cells.  Instead, this cancer causes abnormal white blood cells to be produced; these abnormal cells cannot do their job properly.

What is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Hodgkin’s Disease, often called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, is a rare type of blood cancer that affects the white blood cells.  These white blood cells, called lymphocytes, play a vital role in the body’s ability to fight off diseases.  The disease is rare; accounting for only about 1% of all the cancer diagnoses each year.  Oddly enough the cancer is also primarily found in those ages 20 to 30 (although people of all ages can be diagnosed).

After the cancer has taken hold, those suffering may notice a swelling in their lymph nodes (most often in the neck, underarms, and chest).  This swelling is accompanied by weight loss, fevers, and night sweats.  The good news is that if the cancer is caught early, it has a high survival rate (over 90% if caught during stage 1).

How Does Artificial Turf Cause Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Artificial turf contains three components.  There is a padded underlayment, a synthetic mat of “grass” that is laid on top of that, and then crumb rubber is sprinkled over the top.  This crumb rubber falls down between the blades of grass, but it does not always stay where it was put.  When a player or object falls against the turf, the rubber pellets bounce up and out from between the blades of grass.  They can then easily be swallowed, inhaled, or become lodged in open abrasions.

Crumb rubber is made from recycled tires.  These tires have been ground up into fine pellets of rubber.  While artificial turf is a great way to utilize old tires and keep them out of the landfills, the problem lies in the fact that making tires requires a lot of chemicals and toxins.  Tests have found arsenic, benzene, cadmium, and lead (among many more) in this rubber.  Some of these components are known human carcinogens.  When they are ingested, or otherwise find their way inside the human body, they can lead to cancer.  Many athletes are being diagnosed with blood related cancers after playing on these fields day after day.

Who is at Risk?

The easy answer is anyone who has played on artificial turf is at risk of accidentally ingesting some of the crumb rubber.  But there are those who are at an even greater risk.

Dedicated Athletes – Athletes that have spent one season playing or practicing on artificial turf at least 3 – 4 times per week are more likely to develop cancer from the exposure to the crumb rubber.

Goal Keepers – The very nature of the position means that goalies are diving and bouncing on the surface more often than other players.  They are far more likely to inhale, ingest, or get crumb rubber lodged in their open cuts.

Physical Players – Some athletes won’t be hitting the ground as much (such as baseball infielders).  Others that are using their body in a more physical manner will fall and hit the ground more and harder.

The bottom line is that most individuals that have played on artificial turf for just one season are at an increased risk of developing cancer from the crumb rubber.  These players should watch for the signs of blood born cancers (like Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) that include: shortness of breath, night sweats, fever, and weight loss.

Soccer Goal Keepers Diagnosed with Lymphoma

Lately there have been a number of young athletes that have been admitted to the hospital.  Their usual diagnosis: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (or a related illness called non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma).

While the rubber can affect any player that is on the field, it is having a particularly target affect on goal keepers.  The reason is fairly clear.  While any of the athletes may fall against the ground, the duties of the goal keeper keep him or her jumping and diving much more often.  Every time they hit the ground, the crumb rubber pellets bounce up and are possibly inhaled, swallowed, or become lodged in open abrasions.

The fact that so many young people have been diagnosed with rare types of cancer move this well beyond the idea that it is just a coincidence.  In fact, from the state of Washington alone there are 13 individuals, 11 of whom are goal keepers.  University of Washington coach Amy Griffin has been keeping track of young athletes that are being diagnosed; and the list keeps getting longer.

Contact Arentz Law Regarding Your Artificial Turf Lawsuit

If you have been exposed to artificial turf, and you have been diagnosed with cancer, you may be able to file a lawsuit.  You were never warned about the dangers of playing on a field made from artificial turf, so you should not be liable for the medical bills that you incur as a result.  Call 1-800-305-6000, or fill out the contact form on this page, today in order to schedule your free initial consultation with an attorney from Arentz Law.

No matter what state you live in, Arentz Law attorneys can handle your artificial turf case.

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