Artificial sports pitches ‘should be torn up’ to prevent risk of cancer

Artificial turfNearly all artificial sports pitches contain high levels of substances that can cause cancer, according to research made public at the weekend.

NOS reported that a survey of 60 rubber-based pitches found that 58 contained between 1.5 and 3.7 times more carcinogenic compounds than are permitted in consumer products. In the most extreme cases the level was six times as high. There is no legal standard for synthetic sports fields.

The findings prompted cancer specialist Bob Löwenberg to call for artificial pitches to be replaced. Löwenberg, professor of hematology at Rotterdam’s Erasmus Medical Centre, told NOS: ‘There is absolutely no evidence that artificial grass pitches are bad for you, but we can’t say they are safe. I think there is every reason to be concerned about artificial grass pitches.’




The pitches were found to contain substances similar to benzene, which is known to increase the risk of cancers such as leukaemia and lymph node cancer.

The Dutch football association KNVB says it wants to wait for the results of a study by the public health authority RIVM before deciding whether new guidelines are needed. The health and sport ministry has also said there is no immediate reason to stop using artificial pitches.

But Löwenberg said it could take a decade to gather enough information to draw definitive conclusions about the link between artificial pitches and cancer. ‘The question is, do we want to take that risk? Do we really want to experiment on people, including children, and discover later it was the wrong thing to do?’