The FAI have defended the safety of artificial pitches after concerns were raised in England that a young goalkeeper’s Hodgkin’s lymphoma might be linked to contact with the rubber pellets used in 3G surfaces.
“We have looked at this issue previously, and Fifa and our consultants Lavosport and Sportslabs have outlined to us that the use of crumb rubber on pitches is not a health risk,” the FAI said yesterday.
“There is a large body of reports that contradict the claims that artificial turf or crumb rubber is a risk to health. We will continue to be guided by Fifa and the appropriate health agencies.”
However, the head of the players’ union in Ireland has said that the issue should be thoroughly investigated at the game’s highest level.
Although currently only one League of Ireland club, Dundalk, hosts competitive games on an artificial pitch — with Derry City and Bohemians likely to follow suit in the future — the majority of professional players here, as well as many amateurs and young children, do train on 3G surfaces, especially during the winter months.
And while PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness says he can “state categorically” that there has been no red flag raised by any of his union’s members about health issues arising from playing on 3G, he believes that there can be no room for complacency.
“You have to take all these things seriously,” he says. “You only have to look at the situation with concussion in America where everybody played it down and in reality there was an issue. The same has to be said for this: We have to do the studies.”
For now, McGuinness believes there is insufficient evidence of a health risk to warrant the union advising its members against playing on artificial turf.
“A mass exodus of people playing on 3G pitches is not reasonable or practical but, if there’s any concern, due diligence needs to be done by the people who run the game at the highest level to ensure that it’s safe for everybody to play on. That’s imperative.
“And if there is any concern then they will have to address it, whether by using a different material or whatever the case may be. There’s a little bit of grey area now and I think parents, in particular, are questioning it. So there has to be clarity.”
Following concerns previously raised in the US, the safety of artificial pitches came under renewed scrutiny in England this week, after a former NHS manager proposed that his son’s Hodgkin’s lymphoma might be linked to coming into contact with the rubber pellets used in the pitches.
Speaking about his 18 year old son Lewis, Nigel Maguire told the BBC: “Lewis would be training on this stuff once or twice a week for four or five years, and he would come back telling me how he swallowed a lot of it, how it got into his eyes, and in cuts and grazes.”
Calling for a review of the pitches, he went on: “There is no research that I can find — and I’ve scanned and scanned that — that says if you ingest this, if you rub this stuff into your wounds that contain these known carcinogens, there is no effect.”
But, like the FAI, the FA in England continue to back the use of the increasingly popular artificial surface, saying this week that “numerous scientific studies…have all validated the human health and environmental safety of 3G pitches and crumb rubber”.
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