New Milford proposed turf field materials spur debate
NEW MILFORD — While the consulting firm for the New Milford High School turf field project has pointed to studies finding the material to be safe, some in town still say they believe it’s a potential health risk.
Luke McCoy, with the BSC Group of Glastonbury, told the school district’s turf field committee the crumb rubber and sand fill for the fields are safe. McCoy pointed to recent studies conducted by the Connecticut and Massachusetts health departments.
“The scientific literature continues to suggest that exposure to artificial turf fields are not generally expected to result in health effects,” according to the Massachusetts study released in March.
“Test results on the crumb rubber indicated lead content less than CPIA limits established for children’s products,” the study found. “Turf fiber did not have lead used in its manufacture.”
The Connecticut Department of Health’s January study concluded large amounts of vapors or particles are not released from the crumb-rubber fields during play.
“Our study did not find a large amount of vapor or particles released from the fields confirming prior reports from Europe and the U.S.,” the DPH study reads. “Our risk assessment did not find elevated cancer risk.”
“The specific crumb rubber we will use is not made in China, and test results tied to European studies found the fill to be safe,” New Milford Mayor Pat Murphy said. “This crumb rubber is so safe, Mr. McCoy said it is used in (baby) pacifiers and toys in Europe.”
The high school fields are expected to contain 60 percent crumb rubber to 40 percent sand. Murphy said density will be a contributing factor to the fields’ life expectancy.
However, Murphy’s Democratic challenger for mayor, David Gronbach, said an organic fill should be considered instead of the crumb rubber.
“If you look at history, it’s littered with products that were once considered safe and are now banned,” said Gronbach, who favors installing a turf field. “Asbestos used to be safe. They used to use lead in paint.”
Gronbach pointed to contradictory studies stating crumb rubber contains carcinogens. He said he has heard other towns have switched to a different compound, which he said might be less costly than crumb rubber.
“Having turf fields is part of the plan,” he said. “I think the community is in favor of a turf field. My concern is that there are people raising questions about the toxicity of tire crumbs. It’s not just one random study. There’s been anecdotal evidence from around the country that this crumb rubber can have a health effect on students. Sometimes it takes 10 years to develop. I don’t want to put the town in a position where we’re facing lawsuits because they should have known that they installed something that could potentially harm students.”
New Milford Athletic Director Keith Lipinsky said he is comfortable with the plan for the fields.
“Mr. McCoy’s presentation made it very clear that the standards of the material’s manufacture and the safety checks and testing shows they are not only well within U.S. standards, but also the much more stringent standards of European countries,” Lipinsky said.
McCoy could not be reached for comment Friday. McCoy is expected to attend a meeting at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 when the turf field committee will provide an update on the project to the Town Council. The meeting will be held in the E. Paul Martin Room at Roger Sherman Town Hall.