Board of health gives a determination on crumb rubber

(File photo artificial turf)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – After concerns of crumb rubber were made vocal to the city’s board of health, the board made a determination on future use of the material within the city.

The board of health determined that, currently, there will be no actions to prevent crumb rubber from being used in the city, after board members reported during their Wednesday meeting that they reviewed literature and studies on the material. They did however, present a possibility to keep its options open on crumb rubber, including a potential for warning signs at crumb rubber fields.

A request at yesterday’s meeting, as well as a previous meeting, was made by Kristen Mello, Westfield resident and member of Westfield Residents Advocating For Themselves (WRAFT), for the board to consider a moratorium on the use of crumb rubber due to potential health concerns. She also requested several measures related to Roots Athletic Center on Root Road, including a removal of crumb rubber under the synthetic turf fields, information on water testing at the location and heat monitoring of the fields due to synthetic turf field’s propensity to have higher-than-normal temperatures during warmer times.

“From the literature that’s out there, there’s no specific scientific studies that prove that there is a health hazard,” Juanita Carnes, chairperson of the board, said.

According to Carnes, there is no definitive proof that there is or is not a health hazard from crumb rubber, but they are “at the mercy” of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who are currently still conducting studies on the material and its potential effects.

“There are a lot of studies done, but none of which have found effects,” Dr. Teresa Mitchell, board member, said. “There are chemicals that are found, it is possible it is harmful but we don’t know that.”

Dr. Teresa Mitchell added that she reached out to the American Academy of Pediatrics on the matter, and they currently “have no stance on this.”

However, in spite of the board’s decision to take no action on crumb rubber, director of public health Joe Rouse said that this is something that the board and his department should continue to be aware of and informed about.

“This is something that needs to stay on our radar, maybe not as a water contamination issue, but as a human exposure issue,” he said.

In spite of the finding of the board, they did determine that a possible course of action would be to have signage explaining possible risks and hazards of crumb rubber. These included possible choking hazards, potential skin irritation and the possibility of heat-related issues due to synthetic turf fields and their tendency to have higher temperatures in certain conditions.

The board will be presenting a statement to the city council on this topic later today.