Hill introduced the bill in response to growing concerns from the public that the rubber surfaces on turf fields could be increasing the number of cases of leukemia and lymphoma among young athletes, as well as prostate, testicular and other cancers.
"We have a responsibility to ensure that our children aren't being harmed by materials used to make their fields and playgrounds," Hill said in a statement.
Mountain View has a number of fields that use crumb rubber from used tires, with more on the way.
The Mountain View-Los Altos school district installed new artificial turf fields at both Mountain View and Los Altos high schools over the summer, both of which include a layer of crumb rubber. The turf manufacturer, Field Turf, maintains that there are no associated health effects to using the rubber, according to Mike Mathiesen, associate superintendent of business services for the district.
Shelley Smith, athletic director for the district, said the new field replaced the old artificial turf that used to heat up to 110 to 125 degrees and had a harder surface, making it less comfortable to play on. He said so far the feedback on the new field has been positive, and he hasn't heard of any complaints about the health effects.
The Mountain View Whisman School District also has artificial turf at Graham Middle School, and has plans for an artificial turf field at Crittenden Middle School.
The city of Mountain View has a crumb rubber field at Graham School Park, and plans to install acres of artificial turf for the new Shoreline Athletic Fields project, set to be complete by this summer. The project will include a softball field, a baseball field and two soccer fields all using crumb rubber turf, according to city staff member Ray Rodriguez.
Studies on the health effects of the crumb rubber fields to date have been anything but conclusive. The Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study in 2009 and found that the concentration of dangerous compounds were below the "level of concern," according to the EPA website. But by the EPA's own admission, the study was very limited — it looked at only four sites — and should not be used to "reach any comprehensive conclusion."
The 30 chemicals found in the crumb rubber include benzothiazole and trichloroethylene (TCE), compounds known to cause adverse health effects, as well as mercury, arsenic and lead, according to the EPA.
Hill's bill would seek to fill the holes left by the EPA study. Instead of four fields, the study would examine at least 20, and would look specifically at whether the low-level concentrations of toxic compounds and materials can cause leukemia and other cancers and illnesses. It would also examine alternative turf materials such as used shoes, cork, and rice husks.
The study would be paid for through the California Tire Recycling Management Fund, a state fund that collects fees from people who purchase new tires to pay for disposal of used tires.
The bill does not call for cities and schools to tear up existing fields or halt construction, but it would set a state-wide moratorium for new installations of artificial turf using crumb rubber from used tires until Jan. 1, 2018.
Some school districts, like the Los Angeles Unified School District, have already banned artificial turf using crumb rubber.
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