Edmonds moves closer to temporary crumb rubber ban; allows Economic Commission to sunset

Laura Johnson, speaking at a recent council meeting, said
Crumb rubber opponent Laura Johnson, speaking at a recent meeting, said Tuesday’s council action was “proof that each of us can effect change for the better.”

The Edmonds City Council moved a step closer to temporarily banning turf infill made of recycled tires on all public property in the city, directing the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance that calls for a one-year ban. The council also said it would hold a public hearing on the draft ordinance at its next meeting, Dec. 8.

The original motion as proposed by Councilmember Lora Petso called for a three-year ban, but that was amended to one year after further council discussion. In addition, an amendment by Councilmember Diane Buckshnis was also approved that instructs the city attorney to compile data that the council has received so far from various sources on the issue and to engage “an independent person or entity to do our own examination.”

“We need to have a paper trail to support this ban,” Buckshnis added.

Mike Nelson, the council’s newest member and a father of two young children, spoke in support of the ban, stating: “Our federal government has failed to take action to protect our citizens, in my opinion,” Nelson said, “our state government hasn’t yet taken action to protect our citizens and our school district has refused to take action. Therefore I feel that we as a city must, and to protect our citizens, to protect our children.”

An amendment by Councilember Kristiana Johnson to have the ban apply only to City-owned property failed on a 2-5 vote. Councilmember Tom Mesaros, who voted against her amendment, said he believed it was important to have the ban apply to all public property to be effective. The Edmonds School District in its upcoming levy has plans to install a new baseball field at Edmonds-Woodway High School that would be made of tire crumb rubber, Mesaros added.

Tuesday’s action comes after several months of public testimony before the council and discussion among councilmembers about possible health and environmental impacts of artificial turf made of recycled tires, which contain known carcinogens. The issue first surfaced in Edmonds last spring after citizens became aware of a plan by the school district, under an agreement with the city and the Verdant Health Commission, to tear out natural grass fields next to the former Woodway High School (now known as the Woodway Campus) and replace them with crumb rubber artificial turf as part of a three-phase sports complex.

Following an outcry and protests, efforts by crumb rubber opponents to convince the school district to install an alternative infill failed, and two of the fields were installed over the summer. Two more are planned for the same location, although there currently isn’t funding for that phase of the project.

Edmonds resident Laura Johnson, who has been leading the charge for a ban, called Tuesday night’s vote “a win for Edmonds and it was proof that each of us can effect change for the better.

“I am very proud of my city council members for leading by example and working toward taking measures to safeguard human and environmental health,” Johnson said. “I am looking forward to the public hearing next week and moving this forward.”

(You can see City Development Director Shane Hope’s council presentation regarding the crumb rubber ban here.)

In the other significant action of the evening, the council voted 3-4 against a motion that would have prevented the Citizens Economic Development Commission from sunsetting in 2015.

The 17-member commission was formed in 2009 to advise the council on new strategies for economic development revenue generation. Its main accomplishment was the development of the city’s Strategic Action Plan, now being used to guide many city decisions. A few councilmembers have been increasingly critical of the commission in recent months, stating it was ineffective and lacked focus. On Tuesday night, some of those same councilmembers — including Joan Bloom, who described the commission as “clearly limping along” — admitted that the council itself was responsible because it didn’t provide the body with enough direction.

That led Councilmember Mesaros to state that the solution wasn’t to end the commission but to “give them the direction they are seeking.” However, his proposal to lift the sunset provision and allow the commission to continue failed, receiving support from only  Buckshnis and Nelson.

The council also held a public hearing on the 2016 budget, and Finance Director Scott James shared a list of 17 councilmember-proposed amendments to consider. The discussion on the budget is likely to continue through at least mid-December; it must be passed by Dec. 31.

Among the budget-related concerns raised by citizens were a need for additional police traffic enforcement and a suggestion that the budget included too many requests for increased staffing.

20 Replies to “Edmonds moves closer to temporary crumb rubber ban; allows Economic Commission to sunset”

  1. Right…. the lunatic fringe such as the Center for Environmental Health, the City of New York, New York state, LA Unified School District, etc. etc.


  2. Notable comments regarding crumb rubber….far from a “lunatic fringe”:

    David R. Brown: ScD (Doctor of Science) Public Health Toxicologist Director of Public Health Toxicology for Environment and Human Health, Inc.; Past Chief of Environmental Epidemiology and Occupational Health at Connecticut’s Department of Health; Past Deputy Director of The Public Health Practice Group of Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. His comments when asked what advice he would give parents thinking of letting their children play on turf fields: Brown was adamant “My basic advice is, don’t do it,” he replied. And what if there are no other alternatives to artificial turf fields? “If we feel the need to use [turf fields], I’d require that everyone shower and that they use only shoes that they would use on that field and that they not wear the same clothes in and around afterwards, because you want to reduce the chance that [tire crumbs] would be ingested.” In the absence of conclusive long-term studies on the known carcinogens found in some artificial turf fields, Brown believes it’s better to be safe than sorry. “If I had to make recommendations, I would never have a soccer goalie practice on the turf fields,” he said. “Play on it, but not practice on it. The very young children, I’d get them off those fields.”

    In an interview Dr. Brown was asked when he thought people would start to take notice of the cancer-related harms of artificial fields. Ten years? Fifteen? I expected ambiguity — he had been helpful, but he had been reserved with his words, as scientists are and lawyers are not. “Five,” he said. “Five years. Because we’re putting first graders and cancerous materials together. ”He continued: “And when the cancer starts, people like myself will be sorry we didn’t argue more effectively.” https://www.saratogafalcon.org/content/are-artificial-turf-fields-carcinogenic

    D. Barry Boyd, MD: Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, Oncologist at Greenwich Hospital and Affiliate Member of the Yale Cancer Center. warned that “because artificial turf playing fields are disproportionately used by children and adolescents, these childhood exposures to environmental carcinogens may add to lifelong risk of cancer.”

    Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., M.Sc., is a pediatrician and epidemiologist. He has been a member of the faculty of Mount Sinai School of Medicine since 1985 and served as Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine since from 1995 to 2015. He was named Dean for Global Health in 2010. He served for 15 years as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer and medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)., submitted a letter to the New York City Planning Department last year expressing concerns over the carcinogens in tire crumbs. He wrote that the principal chemical components of crumb rubber are Styrene and Butadiene — Styrene is neurotoxic, and Butadiene is a proven human carcinogen that has been shown to cause leukemia and lymphoma. “There is a potential for all of these toxins to be inhaled, absorbed through the skin and even swallowed by children who play on synthetic turf fields,” Dr. Landrigan wrote. “Only a few studies have been done to evaluate this type of exposure risk.”

    “Children go to playgrounds almost daily,” said Dr. Landrigan, dean of global health at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital and a top expert on the effect of chemicals on children. “And gifted athletes are on the soccer filed almost every day. That sort of cumulative exposure results in a buildup in their body of these toxic chemicals, and can result in a buildup of cellular damage that’s caused by these chemicals, that can then result in disease years or decades later.” “Little children should not be put in a situation where they’re forced to be in intimate contact with carcinogenic chemicals,” Dr. Landrigan added.

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Spokesperson Liz Purchia called existing studies inadequate, and said “new science” is needed to answer questions about turf safety and that “existing studies do not comprehensively address the recently raised concerns about children’s health risks from exposures to tire crumb.”

    Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Elliot Kay stated “safe to play on means something to parents that I do not think we intended to convey and I do not think we should have conveyed.”

    Jeff Ruch, Attorney with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) “We (in the U.S.), for the most part, operate under the principle that your chemical is innocent until proven guilty. It goes into a stream of commerce and only if it produces a body count is there then any regulatory response.”


  3. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/08/03/16668environmental-racism-percists-and-epa-one-reason-why

    Environmental law firm………..EARTH Justice

    Referring to people during their intellectual discussions on very important issues to our environment, city, land, water, the very air we breathe and name calling, no matter who you are or where you are from is stating your lack of education and intelligence. Interesting that you would choose to do this in such a public way. Edmonds needs to be part of the worldwide discussion of what we have done to our planet and how we can stop the destruction……..Those that have nothing to offer or can see no further than the end of their pocket book or nose (you know who you are, so do we) need to not be part of the discussion. The onslaught on our environment is huge and here now and we need people that come together and work together for solutions…….This is happening all over the world. Also we have many environmental laws and these need to be followed.

    Thank you Laura again for all the work you have done to help educate the citizens here. We will join the rest rest of the world about these major environmental concerns with or without the name callers.

    Evolution has a funny way of moving forward no matter what


  4. This is a slippery slope. The argument next will be, supported by these same scientists, (and my past posts don’t argue with their science, their credentials, or the letters after their name), that we shouldn’t allow wood smoke or cell phones, flame retardant, LEED certified buildings, or diesel school buses.

    Life expectancy has increased, probably because there is a correlation between advances in technology. That’s science too.

    Does this ban extend to any and all asphalt products that use crumb rubber? Do we know the binders that are used to pave the roads we walk on every day? I don’t know if the City uses recycled asphalt products, but while we are banning things backed by science, let’s ban hot dogs and pizza, canned tomatoes, lysol, and synthetic jogging clothes (at least in all School Board sanctioned activities). Edmonds can be known for having the cross country team that runs in hemp and wool shorts, football helmets of coconut husks held together by horse bone glue, and a cheerleading team tastefully shaking renewable pampas grass poms poms held together with dried kelp.

    Even more so, no one wants to bear the cost. What is the environmental cost of grass fields? What is the energy sink and environmental impact of cork and coconut farming (they don’t do those things in Edmonds, so does it really matter)? What are the downstream effects of pesticides and fertilizers on a grass turf?

    This isn’t a win for our community. It further isolates a pretty well insulated community. I applaude the opponents because they have been effective. I don’t know any of them, but they presented science, and made their point. I share their concerns, and know that I can isolate harmful products and practices ten fold in my home. I don’t agree with the labels, I suspect many of the folks who want to ban crumb rubber aren’t much different than I am, just on a different side of the argument.

    The good thing is that the Democratic process seems to have worked, at least at the council level, but where do we draw the line on banning things.

    We should move towards banning all hair products and laundry detergent next, at least on public property, because science shows that is killing me too. (Then we work on nail polish, makeup, paint, plastic chairs, fluorinated water, and electrical power lines).

    It is easy, in isolation, to say anything can kill you. It is difficult to say which one of those things is going to be the one that does you in. Soccer fields are, for me, the least of my concerns. I would start with XBox, new math, and crosswalks.


  5. I dont know one person that isnt making a personal effort at this time to review the makeup of most, if not all chemical laden and toxic products we have put into our environment and the destruction it has caused according to the latest science.

    It is not difficult at all to reseach ALL products and make an intelligent choice to not use many of them, particularly around children. It is important what we teach our children and the mistakes we have made in the past……..We now KNOW that many people have DIED because of evironmental carcinogins. This is a no brainer!……

    .and besides, nobody has to purchase all that “crap”……I have a small highly decorated Chinese box sitting on a window sill above my kitchen sink that says “random crap from here and there” to remind me about the toxic random crap


  6. “The Slippery Slope fallacy asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question.” Thanks Wiki.

    Using this logical fallacy then perhaps we should also consider ending the ban on children smoking and add depleted uranium to our playing fields instead of organic infills of cork and coconut husks.

    There is, of course, a safer non-absurd middle ground solution to this problem. Crumb rubber contains ground-up, proven carcinogens for which there are safer alternatives for our children to play on which also won’t destroy our environment.


    1. Steve,

      I agree 100%. The slope is that the City is isolating one use of crumb rubber. What’s next? Do I have to get a permit to use ground tire mulch in my yard? Does the City now have to legislate and test what binders are in recycled asphalt and concrete mixes? If I use a recycled liquefied asphalt sealant to repair cracks, am I in violation?

      There is a cost to everything. There is a threat from everything. My argument is that this threat is no different than the threat from the carcinogens that we voluntarily allow into our homes everyday. Yet, this one is unacceptable, so we must legislate and ban.

      If there is a safer alternative, let’s use it, but let’s pay for it as well.


    1. I agree. Best possible surface if maintained properly. There is the risk of fertilizer and pesticide run off, the cost, and maintenance, but if we can pay for it and give the leagues a top notch facility, let’s do it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is possible, because if it was, it would have been done already.


  7. In the Pacific Northwest, you cannot have it both ways. Mud happens. Grass, even with a minimum of pesticides and fertilizer, is at least biologically active, contributes ecologically to the environment, and works but if you want (which is where the split is here) playable fields even during Pineapple Expresses, then you have to go to “alternatives” and create an argument which suspends the notion that artificial turf is not ecologically friendly even with coconut husks infill. And those vast open spaces are not capable in the least of absorbing the water, or filtering it as grass and dirt are which creates run off for the “chemical” products used to maintain them. If you want year round fields, then you end up with what is happening here or some variation on that them. Is it that important? Apparently it is, even to those who are splitting the difference by arguing about the infill.


    1. Sure you can have it both ways. A properly crowned, maintained, drained, adequately monitored, and appropriately played field can support play. In the South, we deal with heat, rain, and bugs, in the Midwest we dealt with heat, bugs, wind, heavy rains, sub zero temperatures and drought. The costs associated with green fields can be very high. They have to be monitored, the play amount has to be controlled, the organic matter has to be broken up and aerated, the drains have to cleared, the sand has to be top dressed, the field has to be fertilized more often (sand based systems), the irrigation system has to designed and built and regularly monitored for overwatering or underwatering (over watering makes lazy roots that lead to weak turf, under watering can create a shell over the grass that has to be broken up more often to keep the turf in strong condition) – the maintenance of a field in Club Rugby becomes very important when it is your knees, your ankles, your head, and every other part of your body is going to become intimately involved with that surface.

      I, once again, am not arguing with the use of a safer in-fill – I just get concerned about what route it will take. Every single aspect of modern life, unfortunately, presents exposure to carcinogens. There is a trade off somewhere. Obesity rates, not having a suitable year round facility, sports related injuries (I have enough to support a small office of neuro, ortho, and general surgeons), and having kids be able to play on a year round facility comes with a cost. I prefer grass – less concussions, more stable and true surface area, not as hot, you don’t get rug burn, and you don’t have to pick little black things or cork out of the strawberries you get on the field.

      The cost is prohibitive for both. Both present unique environmental concerns. Doing nothing is an alternative too, but not one that meets the needs of everyone – the question comes down to what other service is sacrificed within the School Board. What does this ban mean for other products in Edmonds. What is the next product or service or item that is carcinogenic that is going to get banned. What cost do we residents have to absorb?

      There are hundreds, if not thousands, of products in both public and private institutions that we absorb everyday (I, technically, fly more than 85,000 miles per year, and absorb enough radiation to be classified a radiation worker) – but there is a trade off. There shouldn’t be, it should be better. But who is going to pay for it?

      We can legislate just about everything, my concern is that we will, and when the time comes to pay or cut, not too many folks will step up to the plate.

      Okay – I surrender – I am happy that the democratic process is working in Edmonds – and like the tone this discourse and discussion has – I don’t think any of the parents are tree-hugging wackos or fringe nuts – they are concerned, and have presented viable science that has convinced a large number of people that have been very vocal. Kudos to them, I am interested in seeing how a temporary ban that may effect more than just a soccer field is going to play out.


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