Three federal agencies including the EPA are investigating the safety of crumb rubber on turf fields after reports found former athletes developed cancer. Amy Griffin, former U.S. women's national team goalkeeper, compiled a list of over 200 athletes with cancer who have played on synthetic turf, 158 of whom are soccer players. Of the soccer players, 101 are goalkeepers. Eighty of the athletes on her list have some form of lymphoma.
Crumb rubber is common on turf football/soccer fields as well as children's playgrounds. It is made of used rubber tires which are crushed to produce crumbs. While larger pieces of old rubber tires can be used for construction projects or fuel, smaller sizes are used for athletic fields and playgrounds. Approximately 20,000 to 30,000 recycled tires are used per athletic field. Of the 96 chemicals found in crumb rubber, 12 are known carcinogens and about 48 have not been government tested.
The U.S. currently has over 12,000 synthetic crumb-rubber fields across the country in schools, parks and multisport facilities. Future research will analyze chemical compounds in the crumb rubber, measure exposure to those chemicals and determine if it is harmful.