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Controversial synthetic turf remains at 35 Queens athletic fields

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The city installed more than 200 synthetic turf athletic fields that contain a substance known as crumb rubber, linked by some to certain types of cancer, in the past couple decades. But since putting a halt to the installation of these fields in 2008, the city said it has no intention of removing them until they need to be replaced from wear.

Made from ground-up car tires, crumb rubber can contain up to seven carcinogenic chemical compounds, according to the nonprofit health organization Environmental and Human Health Inc.

New York City Parks Advocates President Geoffrey Croft said there have been growing concerns around the country that excessive play on crumb rubber fields is linked to cancer.

While some are tracking cancer clusters in cities across the country trying to find a link, there has been much industry-sponsored counter-research suggesting data on exposure to the chemicals in the turf were insufficient to link attribution to cancer.

Queens has 35 crumb rubber fields.

The city Department of Parks and Recreation said it continues to monitor conditions at all of its fields regularly. If conditions of any particular field merit replacement, the department said it would go about its standard capital process to do so.

Any synthetic turf athletic fields installed in city parks since 2008 contain alternative materials, not crumb rubber.

The state Department of Health hired a firm to conduct an independent study of the fields testing only traces of lead, concluding crumb rubber poses no significant public health risks.

Croft said the problem lies with the city, which laid all the artificial turf fields before conducting any prior tests on the material, which is supposed to help break the fall of those who use it — a safety feature.

“We should be replacing these artificial turf fields, but the problem is we are still paying the bonds on them,” Croft said. “The city installed them so they wouldn’t have to put in the maintenance on the fields, but they aren’t removing them so threat is still there.”

Local resident Peter Malusis has two children who attend Sacred Heart School, which hosts soccer games at Raymond O’Connor Field on 33rd Avenue in Bayside.

O’Connor Field is an artificial turf field made of crumb rubber.

“Seeing as how at least half of my kids’ home games are hosted here, even with some risk, it doesn’t seem worth it,” Malusis said. “My opinion is that people just really don’t know about the risk.”

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Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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