Letter to the editor: School Board’s response ‘unconscionable’

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Dear Mayor Earling and Edmonds City Council,

It was with great dismay, but not surprise, that I read in today’s My Edmonds News that the Edmonds School Board has declined yet another opportunity to respond to its partners’ concerns in the fields development project at the “Old Woodway.”

In declining this request to meet with Edmonds City Council, the Edmonds School Board has refused yet another opportunity to be responsive to environmental and human health concerns raised by citizens, PhD scientists, health professionals, environmental professionals and industry engineers, all of whom have prioritized the need to protect children’s health above all else.

Verdant Health Commission has indicated that they would most likely provide additional funding for a less toxic sports field. The ESD just needs to negotiate with Verdant.

Edmonds City Council has asked to revisit, reconsider, and renegotiate the choice of crumb rubber as the infill for the sports fields. But the school board president, Diana White, says no.

Diana White asserts:

· “The School Board did our due diligence when making this decision.” No, I emphatically disagree.

o The option of creating a sports-field out of grass was never considered.

o The option to use another infill was researched and presented by citizens, not school board.

§ despite the fact that professional soccer and football organizations and athletes have publicly stated they prefer grass;
§ despite the fact that these fields are surrounded by environmentally-sensitive conservation areas, rich with birds and wildlife that depend on grass fields for food and water;
§ despite an unprecedented outcry from students, families, neighbors and citizens throughout the broader school district;
§ despite a novel request to establish an “Environmental Education Program” for ESD students at this campus (much like the STEM Magnet program and International Baccalaureate Program and similar site-based programs elsewhere in the district.)

*Don’t we all agree that with expanding populations, climate change, and increasing environmental demands and constraints, citizens of the future will need more environmental education, not less?

· Diana White states the board discussed a “presentation by the industrial hygienist hired by the district to produce an independent literature review regarding the current state of scientific research on infill materials, specifically crumb rubber.”
o Nothing “independent” here, Diana White!
§ An “Industrial Hygienist” is an industry representative

§ Hired by the school district… I guess it’s obvious what she was paid to do.

§ The industrial hygienist states “At your request, I have reviewed 32 separate documents provided by the Edmonds School District (ESD)”…

· Articles pre-selected by the school district, (not broadly selected from the collective science database) is in no way an “independent” review
· “Current state of science”?

§ Ha! At least 2/3 of the articles in that review were published in 2010 or earlier.

§ By contrast, the Edmonds City Council was provided with a list of articles, all of which were published in 2015, except for two studies that were referenced, and EPA Guidelines published in 2010, but still in effect.

· Diana White fails to mention that a PhD scientist wrote a 19 page rebuttal of the lit review, summarized as follows:

§ “Unfortunately, this report is highly misleading with respect to the science surrounding artificial turf fields.

· There are factual errors in the report.

· Risks are downplayed.

· Significant findings are not reported.

· Study weaknesses are not noted.

· Findings are not placed in proper context.

Since it is so important for the board’s decisions to be based on accurate and unbiased information, I was shocked when I heard that this report was presented to the school board as an impartial review… I have not had time to review every aspect of the document in detail… the review provided … is biased, incomplete, and inaccurate.” — PhD scientist

· The CIH specified that her objective was to “summarize information from the literature related to the potential health risks… “ (And) “does not present an opinion or professional assessment on the use or health effects from artificial turf fields with crumb rubber.“
o Yet, Diana White and the school board are using this review of literature to substantiate their (mistaken) belief that “the scientific literature does not demonstrate an elevated health risk from crumb rubber.”

§ We disagree again. Multiple PhD scientists, health professionals and other citizens have repeatedly testified to the Edmonds School Board, the Edmonds City Council and the Verdant Health Commission about the incontrovertible presence of numerous carcinogens, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, massive amount of carbon black, and other health hazards contained in crumb rubber.

§ We have repeatedly testified to the inadequacy of scientifically rigorous data available to make informed decisions.

§ We have repeatedly stated that children and carcinogens do not belong together! Heavy metals should be kept away from children!

§ The first and foremost responsibility of the Edmonds School Board is to safeguard the health of students.

· Diana White wrote “the best and most prudent use of taxpayer dollars to construct fields with demonstrated sustainability over time.”

o Synthetic turf fields arguably cost almost $100,000 more per year; pose a health risk to the natural environment and to humans on the field, in the classroom and in the neighborhood; establish designated spaces not usable for other forms of recreation, and not usable for the continued academic, recreational, and social purposes that they have served for decades.

o A synthetic turf field is not the highest and best use of school district property, nor is it equitable, prudent and considerate of long-term needs of the school district.

o Delivering hazardous waste to the campus of a Kindergarten through 12th grade school, and installing hazardous waste within feet of classrooms is beyond any definition of prudence or remote sense of public responsibility.

o Delivering and installing hazardous waste into the middle of a neighborhood, where pregnant women, babies, toddlers and preschoolers spend their lives for years is not a prudent use of taxpayer dollars!

o Are pregnant women and families with children supposed to move out of the neighborhood?

o Has the school board forgotten that for several of the recent decades, scrap tires were considered Hazardous Waste because the toxins kill plants, fish and other wildlife? Just read about the Osborne Reef in Wikipedia

· Diana White wrote: “If you need more information supporting the Board’s decision, we encourage you to contact Bob Harding and the field turf consultants…”

o Are you kidding? The Edmonds School Board President refers the Edmonds City Council and others to a sales rep for more information? Does the President of the Edmonds School Board value information gleaned from a sales person, an industry rep, more than ESD constituents? More than the broad base of science? More than the nation-wide effort to have health effects from crumb rubber re-examined in a scientifically rigorous manner?

Concerned citizens have asked to meet with the certified industrial hygienist, hired by the Edmonds School District. We have asked to meet with Gradient, the risk-assessment firm hired by Verdant Health Commission. And we have been turned down.

I submit that if an earnest, intellectually-driven effort to genuinely understand risks to public health posed by crumb rubber were truly the priority of the Edmonds School Board, the school district would have organized a roundtable and host a public forum.

Instead, the public is reduced to trying to promote science-based messages in three minute sound bytes through public comments; letters to the editor and other adversarial means of discussion. Clearly, limiting communication to such inadequate means of information-exchange is intended to quash public input, quash health concerns, and quash social responsibility.

Students, families and neighbors- even athletes- agree. We don’t want to be exposed to carcinogens and heavy metals. That should not be surprising to anyone! That is just common sense!

This dogged, stubborn commitment to crumb rubber is unconscionable, Edmonds School Board.

Diana White, Nick Brossoit: you have had several opportunities to demonstrate leadership, capacity for forward-thinking, and an appreciation of natural resource that should serve thousands of current and future citizens and students in Edmonds for generations.

Instead, you have done none of these important things. You could have done the right thing, but you didn’t. I hope that you are well-remembered when election season rolls around.

Maggie Pinson

5 COMMENTS

  1. I am laughing (although dangerously not funny at all) at the reference to “field turf consultants”…….

    Let us SEE the names of each and every “field turf consultants”……..I have not seen that list of names yet.

    We are going from time honored forever fields of grass to quick, short term decisions made by no names given of the “field turf consultants”………..and the companies and the people they may be connected to. Let us see the list of names of each and every “field turf consultant” ……FTC………didnt that use to stand for the Federal Trade Commision……

    the Irony of that!

    In the 60s and 70s many big businesses CHANGED certain aspects of their modes of operation because well informed citizens called issues to their attention by public protest…….If ever there was a case for protest and public outcry, this would be it and here it is

    To me it appears this really is about something else and its incredible that this particulor group of people on a school board weild this much POWER in this little town and can stick their heels in on an issue regardi g toxic chemicals brought into our environment which could have mega affects for generations………..on everything here

    and you know what is said about too much power. Where does this school board get the power to ignor its parents, childrents, citizens of our town and last but not least

    our very government pleading with these few people. In my opinion something very, very wrong here!

    Devils in the details and this is one “devil” of an issue!

  2. Oh, and I forgot, this very school board will be defending itself evidently in court with lawyers PAID FOR for by us, the very taxpayers that say they dont want crumb rubber…..certainly all outrageous in my book

    How many programs, supplies, lunches, field trips, education, etc would THIS have paid for for our children…..I say it appears they dont give a rats you know what and will fight the very people they are elected to represent and pay for their jobs

  3. How is it possible with all this passion that Diana White is running for reelection unopposed? It’s no wonder she doesn’t feel compelled to listen to us.

  4. Message to the school board.
    change your position, chose a different infill and make everybody happy except the crumb rubber people. Even if you think you are right your respect in this town will be gone if you try to force this down our throats. Oh, and you can surly count on a lawsuit.
    This bird will not fly so figure it out and make a different decision.

  5. As a mom of an athlete I support the need for more athletic fields. However, I do not support the unnecessary exposure to known toxins and carcinogens….especially when there are alternative choices. The questions regarding health concerns with exposure to the KNOWN carcinogens and TOXINS is just beginning to come to light. Like many of you, I assumed that the fields were safe. Just like asbestos, lead paint, tobacco, B.P.A., etc., new information comes to light, and we have an opportunity to educate ourselves on potential for harm and if concerned advocate for a change. There are just too many unanswered questions and the risk is too great. We CAN have synthetic athletic fields for the benefit of ALL who will play on them. By choosing a non-toxic infill, like South Kitsap and many other cities, we do not have to worry when they play or make the difficult, and unnecessary, choice to keep our children from a sport they love, in order to safeguard their health.

    Want to earn more about concerns with crumb rubber/recycled tires, and why so many parents are pushing for safer alternatives? Start here-

    http://www.ehhi.org/

    http://www.skitsap.wednet.edu/site/Default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=1&PageID=1&ViewID=047e6be3-6d87-4130-8424-d8e4e9ed6c2a&FlexDataID=40058

    Safe and Healthy Playing Fields Coalition- http://www.safehealthyplayingfields.org/

    Washington Alliance for Non-toxic Play and Athletic Fields- http://www.wanpaf.org/

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