Verdant consultant: Available data shows no risk from crumb rubber fields

A sign made by opponents of tire crumb rubber turf.
A sign made by opponents of tire crumb rubber turf.

Following up on public concerns expressed about a plan to install an artificial turf field at the former Woodway High School, the Verdant Health Commission at its meeting Thursday morning released the results of a 23-page review of turf field safety, prepared by environmental and risk sciences consulting firm Gradient.

The firm’s conclusion: Based on the the current publicly available data, chemical levels found in two types of artificial turf that have been considered for the Woodway project — FieldTurf SBR made of rubber tire crumbs and GeoTurf infill made mainly of coconut fibers and sand — do not present a risk to people playing on or using fields with these products. Gradient also had been asked to review findings for a third option that had been considered — “Nike Grind” material from a Nike-sponsored shoe recycling program — but did not receive information in time to include it in the report for Wednesday’s Verdant Commission meeting.

The findings “are consistent with those of multiple regulatory agencies that have evaluated the risk from artificial turf products in general,” the Gradient report said, “including evaluations that are more complex than this screening level assessment. Although there are limitations with a screening level risk assessment such as this one, the consistent conclusion that the data do not indicate an increased risk of health effects from chemical exposure lends additional support to our conclusion.”

You can read the entire report here.

Among those present to hear the results of the report at Verdant’s Lynnwood office Wednesday morning were representatives from a group of parents and neighbors who have opposed installation of the tire crumb artificial turf, which has been linked to media reports of possible cancer concerns. Group representatives have spoken at a variety of school district and city meetings, urging the district to look at other turf or natural grass options. But despite opponents’ efforts, both the city council and the school board in recent weeks have taken votes that have moved the fields project forward. (See our report here on an appeal filed last week in Snohomish County Superior Court challenging the city’s land use decision regarding the project.)

“We appreciate the staff and board of Verdant taking the time to thoughtfully respond to the concerns raised by hundreds of community members about crumb rubber,” said group spokeswoman April Osborne. “We felt they honestly and transparently went through an investigative process and shared their findings openly with the public. Throughout the process, Verdant staff answered emails and demonstrated a great deal of respect and integrity in the way they dealt with our concerns and communication.”

Osborne said the results of Gradient’s report came as no surprise to the turf opponents. “Studies are limited, and the consultant hired by Verdant to analyze them came back with an appropriate conclusion based on what is currently available,” Osborne said. “On behalf of the board, Fred (Langer, Verdant Commission Board President) expressed a willingness to continue the conversation, and acknowledged that as more research is done, Verdant remains open to hearing about it.”

Verdant Commission Superintendent Carl Zapora said last week that Verdant is committed to the $2.5 million it has already granted for the multi-use fields project, and that the final decision on which type of turf to use will be up to the school district. But he did leave the door open to the possibility that Verdant could provide additional money to cover the cost of a more expensive type of artificial turf, if the school district made such a funding request. Osborne said that Langer reiterated Wednesday that “should the Edmonds School Board request money for an alternative infill product, the Verdant Board would be very open to discussing the idea.”

Added Osborne: “On behalf of all our children, we will continue to call for more research into the dangers posed by crumb rubber turf, and we appreciate Verdant’s willingness to engage in dialogue and their willingness to continue the conversation.”


  1. This seems odd as the national news had a segment on another research that found these have too many toxins for people to play on since their bodies are falling and hitting these rubber pieces and the toxins are still there from the original creation of the products.

    1. Heather, do you recall the broadcast network and date, or the study they reported on? I’d like to check it out if you have the references. Thanks.

  2. Current information, the EPA states that this “NEEDS MORE STUDIES” (2015). Going along and saying this is safe and presenting as fact is simply stupid and opens many to class action lawsuits.

    Many cities have chosen not to be swayed by the branding of this product by the industry and to keep their residents, particularly children and environment safe.

    I hope people take a stand and boycott these fields if the crumb rubber is left in the fields……The irony that we’re trying to bring back and protect salmon and our environment

    Most people around the world are trying to get rid of toxic chemicals, not making a conscious effort to bring them into their communities just so some can make $$$$ and play sports at night…….how short sighted is that

    making $$$$ and playing sports at night……wow, at the possible expence of peoples health

    sames thing done with asbestos…….used for everything and the general public from 1938 to early 80s told how wonderful it was…..and thousands have died from mesothilioma

    Boycott these fields. Protect the children and everyone

    We see one field and playground in Edmonds with nobody ever on it and have often wondered if there are chemicals in the ground so people dont use it because of that ( maybe old gas service station lot?)……that could explain the non use, nevertheless, it is an EMPTY field rarely if at all used……believe it is around 7th and Pine……always empty

    and last but not least, somebody that knows somebody is making some really good money here, in my opinion and laughing all the way to the bank…..used, old tires…..

    oh yeah, and if they were going to recycle these old tires, why are they not making them into new tires, afterall its only rubber?……Im assuming the companies get these old tires for free. If I remember correctly we used to ship ALL of them to an island

  3. Gradient Corp. appears to be only three years old and the head of this, Teresa Bowers, has this listed at a check on this business
    …..correct me if Im wrong

    ” Prior to joining Gradient, Dr. Bowers held research and visiting faculty positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, where she taught courses in resource geology and applied thermodynamics”

    Interesting that this corporation is only three years old. In other words, practically a new corporation

    ……” started in 2011″

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