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Long Branch Park's Field Turf Deemed Safe by Officials

LONG BRANCH: Concerns over safety of the crumb rubber used in field turf have been raised after an article by NBC stated that the material could cause potential health risks including a potential link to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

The article highlighted 38 cases of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and other cancers in American soccer players who have played on turf fields containing crumb rubber, which is made from recycled tires. The report acknowledges that the compiled list of cases does not amount to a scientific study, but many are calling for more research to determine whether repeated exposure to crumb rubber can cause different forms of cancer.

One of Long Branch's fields at Manahassett Creek Park uses this field turf and the crumb rubber for soccer and football.

Long Branch Director of Community and Economic Development Jacob Jones said that when the decision to install field turf at the park was made, discussions of the possible health were held.

"In discussions with the contractor and and manufacturer, they brought up the arguments against it and gave us information to the contrary," Jones said. "Much of the negatives were debunked and they informed us of the safety of the surface."

Jones said children are advised to not swallow the crumb rubber.

"If you get kids to abide by the rules and maintain the fields we feel it's OK," Jones said. "Unless there's some medical breakthrough we don't know about, we feel the surface is very safe."

Jones said the turf is safer than grass because it creates a cushion that helps prevent injuries when a player falls.

Despite the assurances of the safety by many, Congressman Frank Pallone sent a letter to Robin Ikeda, Acting Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to conduct an official study to examine what effects exposure to the chemicals in crumb rubber may have on athletes who play on turf fields and come into contact with crumb rubber on a regular basis.

"Crumb rubber has been known to contain carcinogens and chemicals, but there is an astounding lack of information on how this product affects our health," Pallone said in a release. "And yet, we send our young kids off to soccer practice and football practice to play on turf fields made of this very substance. The fact that crumb rubber has become so prevalent and that we still know so little about potential health risks it poses is troubling. More research must be done to protect the safety of public health."

Jones said he has not heard of anybody getting sick as a result of playing on the field turf in Long Branch.

"There have been no cases here in Long Branch of any kind of prevailing ailment," Jones said.

He said if a study found that there was a link between the field turf and cancer, the city would most assuredly take action.

"I'm sure the mayor would direct us to take corrective action," Jones said.

The field turf existed at Manahassett Creek Park was damaged by floodwaters caused by Hurricane Sandy and replaced this summer through FEMA funding.

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