Turf war: artificial turf is under fire Email
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 11:34 AM

soccer picProfessional female soccer players are outraged that the 2015 Women’s World Cup hosted by Canada will be played on artificial turf while men will play on natural grass.

A group of players are, in fact, suing FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association, alleging that requiring women to play on artificial turf constitutes gender discrimination. 

Player safety is a primary concern and it involves both playing conditions and a potential threat of cancer.  

Field conditions.  Nadine Angerer, German goalkeeper and FIFA World Player of the Year, resonated with many of her peers when she told Fox Sports, “I’ve played on artificial turf. The risk to get injured is very, very high there.  It totally changes the game.  It’s not fair our game should be changed.”

Cancer threat.  NBC News recently featured University of Washington soccer coach Amy Griffin who has compiled a list of 38 soccer players who have been diagnosed with cancer.  The concern is whether crumb rubber, the black granular material in artificial turf that is made from shredded tires, could be carcinogenic.

Findings about the cancer threat remain unconclusive and various organizations have adopted opposing positions on the issue.  The Synthetic Turf Council points to 14 studies on its website indicating there are no findings that show negative health effects.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer labels four chemicals found in crumb rubber as carcinogenic which at low levels of exposure are considered safe.  In contrast, the advocacy group Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition, among other things, supports legislation that would require fields with artificial turf to post warning signs.

The issues raised over the 2015 Women’s World Cup will undoubtedly remain controversial among soccer players, communities where playing fields will be developed and within the artificial turf industry.  For the present, female players in the 2015 Women’s World Cup have asked that games be changed to other venues or that those already selected for the games be temporarily planted with natural grass.

Courtesy Associations Now, Oct. 14, 2014 and Katie Bascuas.

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