Artificial turf may be an abomination of sports but is it also dangerous for health in other ways? 

Dr. Joe Schwarcz doesn't know it is, but he links together some circumstantial evidence that might be worthy of Environmental Working Group. He notes that the “infill” is composed of sand and granules of “crumb rubber” that keep fibers upright and provide shock absorbency. He's talking about old rubber tires and sneakers that were repurposed.

Remember when environmental activists used to raise hundreds of millions of dollars saying that's what we should be doing? Now they raise hundreds of millions of dollars saying that's what we shouldn't be doing.

Anyway, these tires and sneaker soles are frozen and ground up to make the pellets. Tires are natural and synthetic rubbers and contain an array of chemicals ranging from natural contaminants such as lead to the zinc oxide in the vulcanization process. Then there is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the oil blended with the rubber to provide proper texture, vulcanization accelerators like benzothiazole, amines added as antioxidants and butadiene and styrene residues from the synthetic rubber component.

It sounds terrifying, like all science sounds terrifying. 

Some of them are known, probable or possible carcinogens, at least on those ridiculous IARC studies that declare everything a hazard and never mention exposure to create valid ideas of real risk. And carbon black, used as a reinforcing filler, can harbor “nanoparticles” that some claim are also carcinogenic and can penetrate cells. So throw in brain damage to the standard talk of endocrine disruption.  And if that does not scare you enough, they invoke concern that dust from the rubber pellets can trigger allergies and asthma.

Is there anything to it? Is astroturf really a worry? Any evidence of harm remains anecdotal but Schwarcz is not generally an alarmist, so stay tuned. The American Council on Science and Health is likely to tackle it.