The increase in synthetic surfaces for sports complexes, both in Australia and around the world has led to concerns about health implications for players. This belief, however, whilst still pervasive, has not been upheld by independent studies. So, to put people’s minds at rest, let’s take a look at some of the fears associated with the use of synthetic turf. Namely, the types of infill and rubber used in the manufacture of these products.
Purpose of infill
The infill is a necessary component of synthetic turf as it holds the yarn upright, so it looks more like natural grass. It also provides a degree of shock absorption to players feet, as well as to their body if they fall during a game. This infill acts a buffer between the yarn and the base material, preventing damage to the synthetic turf that can be caused by studs on the bottom of player’s boots.
Types of infill
Although not all synthetic turf has an infill, the more successful turfs require this layer for the reasons given above. The type of infill used, however, differs by manufacturer, although there are five different types, as follows.
Silica sand: This is used because the particles are rounded, rather than sharp edged as seen in sand at the beach. It can be used in combination with rubber or other organic materials but is often used exclusively.
Organics: This is mainly cork or a mix of cork and other organic material, such as coconut husks. It’s not as popular as sand infills, mainly because of the upkeep due to the decomposition of these natural materials.
Recycled SBR: Also known as Crumbed Rubber, this type of infill is manufactured from old car and truck tyres and is the most affordable of the infill options. The benefits of recycled SBR are that it brings its own measure of shock absorption, is UV stable and long lasting.
Thermo Plastics: Whilst relatively new to the industry, this material can be turned into grains that retain their shape, whilst being fairly elastic, non-toxic and long lasting. It can also be recycled once its use as an infill has ended.
EPDM: Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer is quite distinctive, being either red, green, or brown and is commonly used as the surface for athletic tracks and playgrounds, as well as being used as an infill for synthetic turf.
Virgin rubber and recycled SBR rubber
Recycled SBR rubber (also known as recycled rubber) has been the more popular of the infill options, mostly due to its price point. However, over the past few years, there’s been a move towards virgin rubber (also known as EPDM) and the organic infill, despite the greater costs.
Specific health concerns
There have been concerns that the recycled SBR can cause cancer in players, however in 2017, a US study found no evidence of an increased rate of cancer in the study group. In 2016, a Denmark study found no links between SBR infills and leukemia and lymph node cancer. In fact, the chemical substances that could cause these conditions were either not present in the infills or were in extremely low quantities.
Hopefully, this information has relieved any concerns you may have about the safety of using synthetic turf in Australia.
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