A tragic story by NBC News discussed the death of one young woman, from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and her mother’s fear that the death may have been linked to the popular artificial turf used at schools and gymnasiums across the country. Though scientists say there is no conclusive proof linking the artificial turf to cancer in children, parents and others say that more research needs to be done given alarming anecdotal evidence.
NBC News told the story of Austen Everett, a talented soccer player who started playing the game as a little girl. Like most kids, Austin began playing on a grass field, but as she grew older and more experienced, she gravitated towards playing on artificial turf fields. By middle school, she was playing almost exclusively on artificial turf.
Several years later, while attending the University of Miami where she was a promising young athlete, Austin was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Only four years later, Austen had died from the terrible disease.
Her mother, understandably heartbroken, began to suspect that her daughter’s death could be linked to the artificial turf that she had spent so many years playing on. The reason was that after her daughter was diagnosed, she learned of three other goalies who had also developed cancer at a surprisingly young age.
Since Austen’s death, her mother has worked hard to raise awareness of the potential dangers of artificial turf, yet has found a lack of assistance from the scientific and legislative communities. So far, studies have not been able to link artificial turf to harmful health consequences in humans, though critics say that more work remains to be done concerning the issue.
The suspicion over artificial turf relates to its composition. Artificial turf is also known as crumb rubber turf and is made of broken down tires as well as green pieces of nylon that serve as fake grass. Though it can be great to play on and cushion falls, critics warn that the tires that are used to make the turf contain carcinogens.
The artificial turf industry claims that there has been no link established between the use of artificial turf and cancer. They also argue that the chemicals and carcinogens contained in the tires remain trapped inside the rubber and that children playing on the materials are not exposed.
The Everetts and many other families aren’t so sure. The leader of one prominent soccer camp where Austen used to attend says that after hearing about other young players developing cancer she began keeping a list. The number of names on the list of goalies with cancer who played on crumb rubber now stands at 63. Though the evidence is anecdotal, it is enough to give many parents pause.