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.