Hamden Mayor Curt Balzano Leng announced this week that the new baseball diamond at Hamden High School would be designed using cork, coconut fiber, and rice, instead of the recycled rubber infill originally approved by the Town Council. The decision came after months of deliberation, in which the Mayor's office consulted with CCE, researchers from Yale University, and industry experts about the potential health hazards associated with children's exposure to crumb rubber. The rubber used in synthetic turf is typically made from recycled car and truck tires, meaning it can contain a variety of hazardous materials, including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOC's), and polyciclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's). Researchers have also found as many as 12 known human carcinogens in the rubber, which may actually put certain athletes at an elevated risk of cancer. Additionally, the surface of these fields can reach as high as 60-70 degrees hotter than ambient temperatures, creating an unsafe playing environment on hot summer days. Despite this growing body of evidence, the CT Department of Public Health has repeatedly dismissed any data suggesting that artificial fields made with crumb rubber are unsafe for use by children, and has refused to restrict or regulate its use in any way.
The decision to move forward with a non-toxic alternative represents an important victory for Hamden families, and it is one that CCE is proud to endorse. It's an acknowledgement on the part of town officials that the potential health hazards associated with the chemical constituents in crumb rubber present an unacceptable risk to the health of our children, and it takes a precautionary approach that other communities should follow. We applaud Mayor Leng for his leadership and commitment to protecting children's health in the Town of Hamden, and urge other communities to err on the side of caution when it comes to using crumb rubber where our children play.