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Synthetic Turf Studies and State Legislation Continue

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plan to complete its study of crumb rubber used on synthetic turfs. The EPA outlined a two-year timeframe to collect samples from 40 synthetic fields throughout the United States, analyze the results, and publish its long-awaited study.

Samples will be taken over the first year with the analysis taking place through the second year.

President Obama’s White House requested EPA to develop and complete the entire study within one year, concluding by October 2016. However, EPA was only able to provide an interim report at the end of December 2016. Some of that delay was caused by the inability to gain access to playing fields. Additionally, EPA was charged with organizing the various other federal agencies (Consumer Product Safety Commission, Agency for Toxic Substances (CPSC) and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).) As part of the study’s outline, the agencies will evaluate all the existing scientific literature, develop a scientific work plan to take samples from 40 fields throughout the United States both indoor and outdoor facilities, and then publish its findings. At this writing, at the beginning of budget fights over agency funding (President Trump’s White House is recommending to the Congress a $2 billion reduction of EPA’s budget from its previous year’s level) it is uncertain whether the interim report will be completed.

Groups such as ISRI suggested the federal agencies study the sources for the crumb rubber as a way to measure external contaminants such as pollution from nearby factories or cars. This comparison would enable EPA to determine if certain chemicals or substances are present in the crumb rubber or whether they are from nearby sources. Additionally, ISRI requested that when EPA publishes its findings that it provide an explanation to help parents and policymakers better understand the risks associated with the amount of chemicals and substances found in the collected samples of crumb rubber on the fields or playing surfaces.

Despite the ongoing federal, state, and international studies that thus far indicate no significant risk to athletes who play on synthetic turf surfaces, state and local legislators continue to react to assertions in the media that playing on synthetic turf fields with recycled rubber infill is connected to long-term health risks. As of this date, there were:

·         11 bills in 7 states directly targeting crumb rubber and synthetic turf;

·         5 in Maryland that authorize debt to install synthetic turf fields,

·         3 EPR bills in Connecticut, 1 in Vermont, and 1 in Massachusetts that could impact how tires can be recycled and crumb rubber utilized; and

·         1 memorial in New Mexico that would study the recycling and reuse of tires.

 

Unique among these is Maryland HB 1353. Instead of seeking a moratorium on installations or diverting state resources into another study, HB 1353 sought to remove liability limits and sovereign immunity defenses for state and local governmental bodies owning or operating artificial turf fields. Tire Division Chair Mark Rannie testified at the hearing before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on March 8, arguing that HB 1353 has no scientific support and would expose state and local governmental bodies to the risk of frivolous lawsuits, cool the market for recycled rubber products in Maryland, and place a de-facto seal of approval on competing products if for no other reason than avoiding the possibility of a lawsuit.

We've created a State Tire Legislation Report as of March 24, 2017, but you can also view all of these and other bills impacting the industry using ISRI's State Legislative Tracking System. If you're interested in tips for you or your employees on how to use the system, please contact Justin Short.

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