Artificial turf and the risk of an occupational disease

by Kara Dolan-West | Oct 14, 2014 | Workers' Compensation

In some jobs, there are certain injuries or diseases that are immediately recognized as work related. That’s because they are commonly reported by workers in that job field, making claims for workers’ compensation benefits a little easier to make.

Unfortunately, as we pointed out in a post late last month, there are some conditions that do not seem to be obviously related to an occupation, which can prove problematic when filing a claim. This does not make the claim for benefits any less legitimate, only harder to prove the correlation between the occupation and the condition that resulted from it.

Take for example certain blood cancers such as leukemiand non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These sometimes aggressive cancers are well documented as occupational diseases in certain industries, such as within the tire fabrication industry. But did you know that someone outside of this industry may still develop these blood cancers during the course of other work? Let’s take a look.

For months now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been looking into the possibility that artificial turf, which uses recycled bits of tires as infill, might not be as safe as previously thought. Chemicals within the tires that have been identified as carcinogens or are believed to be cancer causing are believed to still pose a risk to athletes and other people who come into contact with these surfaces.

The constant exposure to these chemicals, some researchers believe, may cause certain forms of cancer. This research coincides with data compiled by an associate head coach for the University of Washington’s women’s soccer team, who noted 38 cases of cancer in American soccer players. The link between all the players: artificial turf that contained recycled tire crumbles.

There are a number of professional sports teams across the nation that use artificial turf in their stadiums, which begs the question: when will we start to see cases of work-related cancers in professional athletes or even stadium workers? Furthermore, will they have trouble filing for workers’ compensation or even disability benefits because their condition is not commonly recognized as an occupational disease?

It’s two questions we will have to wait to find answers to, unfortunately.

Sources: NBC News, “How Safe Is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?” Hannah Rappleye, Oct. 8, 2014

The Social Security Administration, “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, 13.00 Malignant Neoplastic Diseases – Adult,” Accessed Oct. 13, 2014

Environment and Human Health, Inc., “Artificial Turf: Exposures to Ground Up Rubber Tires – Athletic Fields, Playgrounds, Garden Mulch,” Accessed Oct. 14, 2014

Tags: Workers' Compensation