President Barack Obama, at the urging of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, is seeking $1 million for a federal investigation into the safety of artificial turf fields and playgrounds.
The request, included in the president’s broader budget request to Congress, comes after Blumenthal called on the White House to initiate a comprehensive study into the potential health risks posed by the fields.
Blumenthal, surrounded by several local advocates for further studying the safety of artificial turf fields, made the announcement of Obama’s support at his Hartford office on Friday.
Several Connecticut communities in recent weeks, including Hamden and Guilford, have had meetings where residents have expressed concerns about the potential health dangers of artificial fields.
“People need and deserve to know whether these fields are safe, and only an independent, authoritative federal investigation can answer that question,” Blumenthal said. “I have made no conclusion, but recent accounts regarding increased cancer incidences among athletes exposed to these fields, and the lack of any conclusive safety evidence, warrant immediate, thorough investigation.”
Connecticut’s senior senator said he is hopeful that the study will be completed by the end of this year. “It needs to be done sooner, not later,’’ he said.
Asked what towns in Connecticut should do that currently use or are planning to use artificial playing fields, Blumenthal and others at Friday’s press conference had the same answer – limit the amount of time kids are exposed to the fields.
David Brown, a public health toxicologist, said: “If the fields are to be used – they should just be used for games. Let the kids practice on real grass until we know definitely whether or not these fields are safe.’’
The Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission held a four hour meeting this week on the proposed installation of a synthetic turf field at Hamden High School.
The Hamden PZC put off voting on the installation, saying another special meeting would likely be called before the vote.
Nancy Alderman, president of North Haven-based Environment and Human Health Inc., who was both at Friday’s Blumenthal announcement and the Hamden PZC meeting, stated she is thrilled the issue is being brought to the White House.
“We are forever grateful to Senator Blumenthal and the executive branch for bringing this forward,’’ Alderman said. “What we really need is Congressional hearings on how these fields got approved in the first place.’’
Also at Friday’s announcement was Louis W. Burch, Connecticut program director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
“The public deserves an honest and comprehensive assessment of the real risks to our children associated with crumb rubber,’’ said Burch.
Burch added: “When there’s mounting scientific evidence warning us of carcinogens and heavy metals in the material that our future generations play on every day, we have a responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation of potential health impacts they pose.’’