Supervisors Seek Tests of Crumb Rubber Fields

In response to concerns over the health safety of artificial turf at high schools, county supervisors will ask the Loudoun County School Board for permission to test three crumb rubber fields to find out exactly what’s in them.

Supervisors on Thursday, May 19, voted to allocate $27,900 for the testing. Some supervisors were critical of the proposal, which county staff members emphasized would not “provide sufficient information to infer a human health risk associated with CRI [crumb rubber infill] on playing fields.” The tests will tell the county what is in the material, and whether it is entering the bodies of student athletes and, if so, whether it is causing harm or simply passing back out without impact.

Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) and Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin). (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) and Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin). (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

“All we’re going to get is data that we can’t benchmark against anything,” said Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn).

Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) also pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency has just begun a more comprehensive two-year study of crumb rubber’s health effects.

“Our tax dollars on the federal level are going to pay for a more thorough study,” Volpe said.

Still, other supervisors said some information is better than none.

“I don’t want to wait two years to find out what’s in our crumb rubber here in Loudoun County,” Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said.

He said the study was worthwhile if only to put parents’ minds at ease about lead content. “I would like for us to be able to say there’s no lead in our crumb rubber, because the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] says there’s no acceptable level of lead for children to swallow or absorb or ingest.”

The board voted 5-3-1 to ask the School Board for permission to test three fields representative of different sources of crumb rubber. Supervisors Volpe, Buona, and Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) voted against; Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) was away.

School board members sounded in favor of the idea during Monday’s Joint Board of Supervisors/School Board meeting. Jeff Morse (Dulles) said it may be smart to test the lead levels in the soil on a grass field: “We need a benchmark.”

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