Material for Everett Boys & Girls Club play fields to be tested

EVERETT — The new artificial athletic field at the Everett Boys &Girls Club is one of six nationwide being tested for the safety of crumb-rubber fill — a product that has triggered increasing concern over a possible link to cancer.

The fine-grained fill is used in artificial-turf fields and is made from ground-up tires.

The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, named for the famous Baltimore Orioles manager, helped pay for construction of the artificial-turf field here and at 41 other locations nationally. It will pay for testing the material from the six fields at an estimated cost of $15,000, said Chuck Brady, vice president of the Baltimore-based nonprofit.

The Everett ball field is on the grounds of the Boys &Girls Club at 2316 12th St., near Hawthorne Elementary School. Installation of the artificial turf, paid for by the Ripken foundation, Everett Community College and Snohomish County Parks and Recreation, was completed in November.

Other fields to be tested are in Baltimore, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Minneapolis, Newport News, Virginia, and Naples, Florida.

The Ripken Foundation’s board decision to conduct the tests comes after national news reports about a possible link between the crumb-rubber fill and cancer, Brady said. “When we heard those reports, we were just as concerned as everybody else,” he said. “We spent a long time this past year doing as much research as we could.”

Among those who have raised questions about crumb rubber are a University of Washington soccer coach, whose concern about artificial turf and a possible link to cancer was reported by news outlets nationally in 2014.

There are numerous health studies of crumb-rubber material that raise “absolutely no concern,” Brady said. But the national publicity “got our attention to say, ‘Hey, we need to check our fields.’?”

Last month, Edmonds parents said they were concerned about crumb rubber in a new artificial-turf field being built at the former Woodway High School. They lobbied the Edmonds School Board to substitute another material. But the school district has decided to proceed with construction of the field with the crumb-rubber fill.

The tests are being conducted by Labosport, based in Montreal, Canada. Results are expected in the next several months. The six fields were chosen for the geographic diversity of locales — including regions of the country with different climates and fields that were installed between three years ago and more recently.

If tests show any potential problem, the group is prepared to replace the crumb rubber at all 42 fields nationwide at an estimated cost of about $50,000 per field, Brady said.

“There’s so many variables that may make one field have some toxic rubber in it and others not,” he said. For example, tires from trucks and cars might have been driven in areas with contaminated soil, Brady said. “It’s kind of complicated.”

Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of the Boys &Girls Club of Snohomish County, said the Ripken foundation called him on Wednesday asking if they would be willing to have the Everett field tested.

“We’re going with the assumption that they’re OK until we get this independent review on whether they are or not,” Tsoukalas said. “If they are not, they’ve assured us they’ll take corrective actions.”

The Boys &Girls Club’s new artificial turf replaced an aging grass-and-dirt field. Cost of the new field, including seating, dugouts, bullpens and landscaping, cost nearly $1 million, Tsoukalas said.

Everett Community College’s women’s softball team began practice on the field in January, he said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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