School Environmental Health
Crumb Rubber Fields
Crumb rubber is commonly used in synthetic turf playing fields because it is more durable and requires less maintenance than traditional grass fields. Crumb rubber is typically made by shredding old tires into small pellets. Tires contain a number of materials that can be harmful to health. These materials include metals, volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, and particulates. People may be exposed to crumb rubber materials on playing fields through swallowing, breathing, or contact through the skin.
Studies to-date have generally shown that exposure to chemicals in crumb rubber is likely to be small and not harmful to health. Based on current evidence, there is no reason to advise people against playing sports on synthetic turf fields. However, there are still scientific data gaps in our understanding of potential health risks from crumb rubber in athletic fields. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is tracking two on-going, comprehensive research efforts on crumb rubber. One study is being led by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. As of August 2019, the first report on crumb rubber has been released. The report characterizes the components of, and emissions from, recycled tire crumb rubber. Based on the findings, chemicals of concern are present in tire crumb rubber. However, human exposure may be limited based on how much is released into air and into biological fluids (such as sweat or gastric fluid) when crumb rubber particles cling to skin or get swallowed. Additional reports will be released in the future. The second research effort is by the California Office of Health Hazard Assessment. A study report, which will include a human health risk assessment, is expected to be released in 2019. MDH is tracking these research efforts and will consider their results in any future recommendations regarding the use of crumb rubber in synthetic turf fields.For more information, please see our information sheet: