Amy Griffin, a 27-year soccer coach, began to notice an uptick in cancer among players and is concerned that the increase in use of artificial turf may be an underlying cause. Griffin began her crusade in 2009 and has compiled a list of 50 American soccer players, mostly goal keepers, who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Turf fields, which use crumb rubber to mimic natural soil, are popular because they are lower maintenance and provide a consistent playing field for athletes without watering —they are also seen as environmentally friendly because they recycle old tires into a new resource.
Griffin is concerned that the use of potentially carcinogenic material is a risk factor, especially for goalkeepers who often have open wounds while in close contact with the turf material. At this point, however, Griffin’s case against synthetic turf is anecdotal—there simply isn’t enough evidence to support her claims about relationship between turf and cancer incidence.
Makers of the turf field argue that academic, federal, and state government organizations has never found a link between synthetic turf and cancer but that they are willing to support continued research where appropriate. As of now, the EPA is committed to conducting research on a field-by-field basis to ensure that field materials are safe and players are not at risk.
Amy Griffin can’t say for sure that artificial turfs are causing cancer. But she’s doing everything she can to find out. One thing she does know: Soccer players across the country are coming down with cancer at epidemic rates. It didn’t always used to be this way. “I’ve coached for 26, 27 years,” Griffin said in an interview with NBC. “My first 15 years, I never heard anything about this. All of a sudden it seems to be a stream of kids.”