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Israel seeks health study of synthetic turf fields

Dana Erdheim, director of Early Childhood Services at

Dana Erdheim, director of Early Childhood Services at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in East Hills, and Congressman Steve Israel talk about the safe non-toxic poured in the facility's playground on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Rep. Steve Israel on Tuesday called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study possible health effects of turf fields and playgrounds made with recycled tires, saying the agency's earlier review was insufficient.

"We are demanding the EPA get answers for their constituents. Right now there's uncertainty and ambiguity," Israel (D-Huntington) said at a news conference at Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in East Hills.

A 2009 EPA study of four playgrounds where "tire crumb" material was used said "on average, concentrations of components monitored in this study were below levels of concern." But the agency said that due to the limited nature of the study, "it is not possible to reach any more comprehensive conclusions without the consideration of additional data."

Israel requested a comprehensive health study in a letter Tuesday to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. He said the EPA should work with the synthetic turf industry and environmental and health advocates. "More must be done to understand the potential health risks that tire crumb could pose," he said.

An EPA spokesperson said in a statement, "The agency will carefully review Congressman Israel's letter."

A Nassau County legislative committee recently approved spending $10.8 million on new turf fields at Eisenhower Park, which would use tire crumbs.

The recycled tires contain arsenic, benzene, cadmium and nickel, as well as other compounds, according to the EPA.

Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), who has raised concerns about the safety of the field material, said Tuesday that Nassau should delay the project until the EPA produces more information about possible health issues. "I'd urge them to slow the process down to a great degree until we got more reassurance from the EPA."

Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein said that "while we await the EPA's results, it's important to note that prior studies summarized by the New York State Department of Health conclude that crumb rubbers from synthetic turf do not pose a public health hazard."

A state Health Department fact sheet says that "based on the available information, chemical exposures from crumb rubber in synthetic turf do not pose a public health hazard."

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