Bad Science Linked to Fears of Fake Grass
Underneath the green plastic in the top layer of artificial turf are little bits of rubber meant to cushion athletes when they fall on the surface. Sliding on artificial turf can cut up skin and athletes can get these little crumbs of rubber stuck in their skin (something I've experienced first-hand). But when Washington State soccer coach Amy Griffin found out that some of her former players had cancer, she was concerned these bits of rubber or simply the act of playing on the artificial turf may be correlated with occurrences of cancer. They are not.
A study from the state's public health officials didn't find a connection between cancer and the playing surface. What's more, their findings were consistent with numerous other investigations into the same question. Still, the theory remains in circulation, and influences decisions about the design and maintenance of playing fields around the country. "Most of the time, though, quick conclusions about disease clusters and their causes don’t hold up to careful scrutiny," David Ropeik writes in the Boston Globe.