Vancouver park commissioner John Irwin brings motion forward dealing with health effects of artificial turf

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      More than four years ago, Georgia Straight writer Gail Johnson wrote an article citing a Seattle soccer coach's concerns about dozens of players who have been diagnosed with cancer.

      The University of Washington's associate head coach, Amy Griffin, wondered if there was a link between the players' health issues and tire crumbs, laced with toxic chemicals, which are in artificial turf.

      Tonight, the Vancouver park board will hear a motion from a Coalition of Progressive Electors commissioner recommending that a consultant examine health-related issues linked to artificial turf.

      John Irwin is seeking commissioners' support for this consultant to review the results of a study being conducted by the California Environmental Protection Agency into crumb rubber infill and plastic turf.

      In addition, Irwin is hoping that fellow commissioners will direct staff to "clean and remediate any artificial turf areas where crumb rubber is dispersing into either soils or stormwater systems". 

      The board will also vote on his resolution to explore ways to prevent existing crumb rubber and microplastics from entering aquatic ecosystems.

      COPE park commissioner John Irwin wants staff to ensure that crumb rubber is not leaking into aquatic ecosystems.
      Vancouver park board

      The preamble to Irwin's motion states that crumb-rubber pellets at Trillium Park and Van Tech playing fields tested positive for lead.

      Irwin noted that SFU professor Bruce Lanphear, an internationally recognized expert on the health effects of lead, has pointed out that there's no safe level of this element in children's blood.

      Lanphear has also noted that 17 percent of the chemicals in crumb rubber are known carcinogens—and that children are exposed to lead and other toxic chemicals from artificial turf.

      According to an earlier park board report, the chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health informed the board that there is no public health reason for discontinuing the use of artificial turf.

      "Serious health risks, including cancer, are not increased from playing on synthetic turf fields with crumb rubber infill," wrote Dr. Patricia Daly.

      In 2015, however, Johnson quoted the department head of cancer-control research at the B.C. Cancer Reseach Centre saying that more research needs to be done.

      “It would take a massive and expensive research study to relate the fields to cancer risk, but given the anecdotal evidence and the fact that children are involved, it seems worthwhile,” John Spinelli said at the time.