Letter to the Editor: It’s time to ban crumb rubber in Edmonds


The following letter was sent to the Edmonds City Council with a request to print it in My Edmonds News.

Dear Edmonds City Council;

Undebated facts about crumb rubber infill in synthetic turf versus Issues that simply should not be debated

After months of discussion, public comment, testimony and letters to the editor, I am flabbergasted that a high-ranking Edmonds Parks & Recreation staffer is dismissing human and environmental health concerns about crumb rubber as “anecdotal.” I vote “no confidence.”

The good news? Edmonds City Council has an opportunity to ban crumb rubber.

Toxic chemicals? There is no debate

Studies repeatedly demonstrate that shredded tires/crumb rubber/ SBR/styrene butadiene rubber synthetic turf infill contains multiple carcinogens, heavy metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, massive amounts of carbon black, and other toxins.

No one debates the presence of these toxic chemicals: not the certified industrial hygienist who was hired by Edmonds School District (ESD) to write a summary of articles given to her by ESD; not Gradient Corporation who was hired by Verdant Health Commission to provide a risk assessment; not the Synthetic Turf Council, who promotes the business interests of the billion dollar synthetic turf industry; not even DA Hogan, the firm hired by ESD.

In a letter written by Bob Harding (who works for DA Hogan) and sent to Carrie Hite, Director of Parks and Recreation City of Edmonds, Mr. Harding acknowledges the presence of carcinogens and heavy metals: “As noted in these studies, there are heavy metals and other carcinogenic materials that are in the chemical make-up of the SBR material but these are essentially ‘locked’ into the material and are typically not considered as being bio-available.”

Do you believe a sales rep when he talks about “bio-availability”?

Many PhD Toxicologists have publicly expressed great concern about crumb rubber, including Suzanne Wuerthele, a former EPA toxicologist who is now retired. “The EPA made a mistake in promoting this. That’s my personal view… This was a serious no-brainer. You take something with all kinds of hazardous materials and make it something kids play on? It seems like a dumb idea.”

Some soccer coaches and dads have testified to the City Council, “We know these fields contain carcinogens… We take risks every day.” Whereas, other coaches and dads have stated, “Now that I know better, none of my kids will play on crumb rubber. What a relief… my kids prefer tennis.” Thank you for keeping me safe, Dad!

The presence of toxins is not anecdotal, not controversial.

It is rock-solid science that crumb rubber kills plants, harms/kills wildlife, and leaches metals and other toxins into water. No debate whatsoever. The debate is whether these toxins cause harm, illness or injury to people.

Debate: proponents vs. opponents of crumb rubber

Proponents of crumb rubber ask:
“Is there any bonafide scientific reason why children should not play in a field that off-gases carcinogenic vapors, and gives off nano-sized carcinogenic carbon black dust particles sprinkled with heavy metals?”

“Is there any scientific reason why cancer-causing nanoparticles that remain suspended in the air for WEEKS should not be delivered and installed into school-grounds with toddlers and pregnant women, and dumped into the middle of neighborhoods? What’s wrong with periodically freshening up the waste dump with more cancer-causing toxins?”

“Is there any bonafide scientific reason why grassfields (surrounded by a large WA State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Area) shouldn’t be ripped up and have 100+ tons of shredded tires (previously categorized as hazardous waste) dumped into it?”

Opponents of crumb rubber ask:
“Shouldn’t we be concerned when the Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission testified under oath at a Congressional Hearing on May 19, 2015: “The CPSC no longer stands by the slogan that crumb rubber is ‘OK to install, OK to play on!’ …Even in 2008, technical staff didn’t agree with that slogan… Being safe to play on means something to parents that [the CPSC] didn’t intend to convey…”

“Shouldn’t we be concerned when the Environmental Protection Agency officially dis-associates from the ‘Scrap Tire Work Group’; officially stops promoting the use of crumb rubber; and officially strongly recommends more research at the state and local levels?”

“Shouldn’t we be concerned when the EPA gets forced under pressure from a lawsuit to add comments to their website such as, “Findings from this very limited study… cannot be generalized beyond the specific fields… that were actually sampled.” In an interview, EPA said, “No conclusions should be drawn from [this study].”


“Shouldn’t it raise a red flag when the certified industrial hygienist hired by the ESD is not a usual consultant for the school district?”

“Shouldn’t it raise a red flag when the ESD touts they hired an ‘independent review’ when in fact, they hired an industry representative to write a summary of articles that the ESD gave her?” That person has no degrees in toxicology or epidemiology and is not a health provider. What special knowledge does she have about child health?

“Shouldn’t it raise a red flag when the ESD claims they looked at the current state of science when in fact, most of the articles were old, included studies that employed scientifically unjustifiable methodologies, and addressed none of the newer concerns such as health effects from nanoparticles and nano-engineered components in rubber tires?”

“Shouldn’t it raise a red flag when the Attorney General of the State of California, the City Attorney of Los Angeles, and the District Attorney for Solano County (California) sue FieldTurf for violations under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986? This law requires warning labels on products that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects.”   Research by the state of California found turf samples that contained more than 5,000 parts per million of lead, which is more than 10 times the state and federal guidelines for children’s products.

“Shouldn’t it raise a red flag when the risk assessment firm hired by the Verdant Health Commission turns out to be a previous client of FieldTurf?” In fact, when FieldTurf was sued in California, the Gradient Corporation defended FieldTurf! How on earth did Verdant Health Commission in Lynnwood WA end up hiring Gradient Corp, which was paid to defend FieldTurf against outrageous amounts of lead in California sportsfields? What is the motive in hiring a company who is paid to defend outrageous lead levels in school playgrounds?

Shouldn’t it raise a red flag to learn that the Edmonds School District hired FieldTurf to install crumb rubber fields into the grass at the “Old Woodway?”

You don’t have to be Einstein, or a rocket scientist, to realize that these disturbingly closely related coincidences, and strangely unusual departures from standard procedure, seem a bit dodgy…

When you further consider that $4.2 million in public money- 100% public money- is being spent to install hazardous waste into a K-12 school playground, into grassfields that are habitat –food and water resources- for protected species in the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Area…   if you aren’t outraged, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Debate: Does Edmonds School Board have the right to needlessly expose students/staff, neighborhood residents and wildlife to toxins?

Not in my book. Not my student, my school community, my neighborhood, my wildlife conservation area, my park, my city. This is publicly-owned property. More than 77% of respondents in a random online survey voted AGAINST destruction of these fields

Hello, Edmonds School Board, Parks and Rec? Let’s talk rock-solid, non-debatable scientific facts.

Let’s talk: Routes of human exposure to crumb rubber infill in synthetic turf: Athletes on crumb rubber fields inhale vapors and dust, swallow dust and rubber pellets, have rubber pellets rubbed into wounds, nose, eyes, ears… Practice after practice, game after game. To a lesser but nonetheless still concerning degree, children/staff of the nearby school, and residents of the surrounding neighborhood, are similarly exposed day after day, year after year.

Let’s talk: Heavy metals: Crumb rubber samples commonly contain lead, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, cobalt and other heavy metals that children should never be knowingly, intentionally and with a foresight, be exposed to. Heavy metals like these cause decreased IQ, learning disabilities and cognitive dysfunction; impair the immune system; interfere with cell division; cause lung, heart and brain disease, and yes, they can even cause cancer.

Let’s talk: Cancer: The President’s Cancer Panel published a monograph in 2010: “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now.” “It is vitally important to recognize that children are far more susceptible to damage from environmental carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting compounds than adults. To the extent possible, parents and child care providers should choose foods, house and garden products, play spaces, toys, medicines, and medical tests that will minimize children’s exposure to toxics.”

ZERO long-term, epidemiological studies have ever been done to resolve concerns about effects of crumb rubber on athletes. Preliminary data indicates soccer goalies have disproportionately high levels of cancer. Goalkeepers make up only 9% of soccer players, but goalkeepers comprise about 69% of soccer players with cancer. WHY?

This should be disconcerting to everyone with a social conscience.

ZERO studies have evaluated health effects of crumb rubber, including carbon black, on people in nearby schools and neighborhoods. Carbon black makes up about 30% of tires. Carbon black dust stays in the air for WEEKS. Carbon black has been classified as a carcinogen since 2003 by the State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Inhaled carbon black enters the bloodstream and can redistribute anywhere in the body. Carbon black is extremely bad for human beings, and carbon black is bad for the environment: carbon black contributes substantially to global warming.

Top reason for objecting to the installation of crumb rubber synthetic sportsfields at the Former Woodway High School? Health concerns for people on or near the sportsfields, specifically athletes; children/staff in nearby classrooms; and residents of the local neighborhood.

A current ESD school board member stated: “We didn’t know there was a health concern until parents started complaining this spring.”  After having already installed SEVEN crumb rubber fields, shouldn’t the board have been paying closer attention? Isn’t it THEIR responsibility to monitor updates about materials, safety and health concerns affecting schools? Cities, counties and states across the United States are considering moratoriums on crumb rubber.

The current Edmonds School Board is clearly not comprised of forward-thinking, informed intellectuals who value student and neighborhood health, and who are responsive to citizen input. Edmonds School Board needs a whole new panel of board members who can THINK!

Why do children need YOU to protect them?

David Brown, ScD, public health toxicologist writes:

    • Children are more susceptible than adults to a variety of environmental hazards, for several reasons.
    • Children’s organ systems are developing rapidly. A toxic exposure during a critical window of development can have life-long consequences.
    • Children’s detoxification mechanisms are also immature, so an exposure that might not have an important effect on an adult could have an important effect on a child…
    • There is no ‘safe’ threshold level for exposure to carcinogens.
    • The only way to eliminate cancer risk from these chemicals is to eliminate exposure.
    • Cancer, in particular, is a disease with long latency: disease can develop many years after exposure… Children have many years in which to develop disease. For these and other reasons, it is particularly important to avoid carcinogenic exposures during childhood.

David R Brown Sc.D. is a public health toxicologist and Director of Public Health Toxicology for Environment and Human Health, Inc.. He is past Chief of Environmental Epidemiology and Occupational Health at Connecticut’s Department of Health and past Deputy Director of The Public Health Practice Group of ATSDR at the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.

The President’s Cancer Panel published a monograph in 2010: “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now.” Messages from U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, included:

“It is vitally important to recognize that children are far more susceptible to damage from environmental carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting compounds than adults. To the extent possible, parents and child care providers should choose foods, house and garden products, play spaces, toys, medicines, and medical tests that will minimize children’s exposure to toxics.”

My bottom line? No crumb rubber should be installed in playgrounds or schools. Period.

Crumb rubber sportsfields are a foolish use of public monies by school districts, health commissions and cities. If you aren’t outraged, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Let’s hope the Edmonds City Council takes action to protect its children, citizens and neighborhoods.

City Council of Edmonds: for the love of this city, and for the well-being of all current and future inhabitants, please BAN CRUMB RUBBER!

— Margaret Pinson, MN, ARNP/RN, FNP

8 Replies to “Letter to the Editor: It’s time to ban crumb rubber in Edmonds”

  1. Thank you, Margaret, for this well thought out summary of why we should not have hazardous waste DUMPED into our community.

    I keep watching the geese flying overhead and thinking about them landing on those fields……..the babies and WHAT they’re going to naturally pick up to eat……Likewise in my front yard with all those little birds on the ground half the time picking things up. WHO would think little birds, big birds, etc are not going to eat those little morsels that will be all over our environment. And saying this would never get into our water or fish, marine life etc, is simply fantacy. Oh, and then think of the humans…particularly children

    To me, it is shameful, first of all that people would make money off of this…..recycling hazardous waste and actually dumping it in our community and move on to sell somewhere else and further damage the earth.

    I call for the removal of it on the field it is already on and a protest against further dumping of waste into our community. It is simply unbelievable that our community is being exposed to this……and yes, we are paying for this and in more ways than one.

    After the shock of this, Im wondering what else our city believes it is ok to expose us to?……believes it is ok…..

    in this day and age…….with everthing we know about toxic chemicals and our environment.


  2. Once again, the dangers of crumb rubber have been articuatly laid out, and yet I expect another refusal from the city council to make the best decision for the health of the children and environment.
    Who in the world has the power to say these facts are irrelevant for our community?
    Is it a powerful donor, a few bullying parents ?
    In this age of information about chemical dangers, there is absolutely no excuse or power that should allow you to intentionally poison our community.
    It’s time to take a long look at each and every person on the council so we can make informed decisions about who is a positive or a negative representing our beautiful city.


  3. Please consider signing and sharing the petition to “Ban Crumb Rubber in Edmonds” Encourage our City to set an example by placing human and environmental health first. Crumb rubber is made from tires. Tires contain carcinogens. Carcinogens and children DO NOT mix!

    Edmonds set an example with plastic bags. We can, and should do it again with toxic crumb rubber. Just like the use of plastic bags, there are better, and healthier methods to accomplish the same end goal. Using paper bags instead is like using a non-toxic infill on a synthetic surface. Even better, bring your own bag/use organically maintained grass. Either way is is a much better choice than environmentally hazardous plastic bags/toxic and carcinogenic crumb rubber.

    Edmonds is a gift, let’s keep it healthy for all- children, athletes, citizens, visitors, pets, wildlife, aquatic life, and the air we all breathe. Tires are made up of 30% or more carbon black, a KNOWN carcinogen and environmental pollutant. Grinding tires up into tiny dust producing bits only makes the chemicals (96 + toxins and carcinogens) more accessible.



  4. I genuinely can’t believe this is up for debate. I cannot articulate the argument any better, but I do pose the following: If there is ANY question that something is likely to be harmful to our children (and to our environment for that matter), is it not imperative to push aside pride and to stop and seriously consider alternate solutions (which also shouldn’t involve the status quo of utilizing chemicals to maintain fields) – even if it requires delaying the project? I appeal to each of the board members to consider the children in their own lives – seriously consider what it will be like for your loved ones to hear of a cancer diagnosis in 20-30 years just as they welcome children or grandchildren into their lives – it’s excruciating. Research results aren’t immediate, studies are too often funded with ulterior motives (malicious or solely focused on a business outcome) and sway results, but common sense is providing all of us with these huge warning signs – even if the science to prove direct result isn’t available. I fully respect the committees in place to make these decisions and who have invested a lot of time in the process and that sometimes the easy option just seems so much easier – but I seriously urge all involved to push aside personal pride and to please ban these substances on our fields. You have the opportunity to do something powerfully groundbreaking. Show us that Edmonds embodies the PNW attitude of protecting the people and environment around them.


  5. Has anybody noticed the new field going in up at Edmonds-Woodway high school. What kind of turf is being used there?


    1. Dave, It is in fact crumb rubber going in at Edmonds-Woodway, and we fought for that that field too. We had less time to prepare, but we urged ESD not to use crumb rubber and to go with a safer alternative. We did all of the research, consulted experts, and spoke at meetings….even had a state senator come out and urge a delay for more research. They did not listen, and the vote to use crumb rubber at EWHS Stadium field signaled that this would be a much bigger fight than simply asking our school district to “err on the side of caution, heed the precautionary principle, and protect the health of our children”. We have even found a possible source of funding the increase in cost of a non-toxic infill (5-8% more) for the fields- ESD was not interested.


  6. Exactly! I don’t know why people are still using crumb rubber when anyone with even the slightest modicum of intelligence should know that it’s an unnecessary health hazard in many ways.


  7. Thank you so much for all of your research, and for assimilating it, and articulating your thoughts so well. You are speaking for hundreds, maybe thousands, of people and families who share this deep concern. I’m bewildered and frankly disgusted with how the Edmonds School District is treating its families and neighbors with such disgrace. Imagine the families who attend programs at the old Woodway property… They probably never imagined that their beautiful green space would ever be transformed into a toxic dump site, and that their kids are expected to play in a dump. Like, parents aren’t supposed to notice or care that their kids are playing in a dump?!? Why do the citizens have to fight so hard to convince the city and school district to make the right choice? It’s baffling! Obviously, more information is available today than the days of the first field installed in Edmonds. The school district’s thinking needs to grow with, and reflect, the current times. But mostly, I would think the decisions of these elected board members should reflect the health concerns of those who voted for them.


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