Cancer concerns prompt changes to new football field turf

Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien made a last minute change to its brand new football field set to open next week.
The school  hasn't had a home game on its football field in more than 40 years.
It heard about concerns nationwide that crumb rubber found in most artificial turfs, may cause cancer.

BURIEN, Wash. — "We were days away from the infill process," added Principal Mike Prato, "we said regardless stop everything."

The crumb rubber is made up of ground tires that is used as infill in the fake grass on the field. It helps to absorb shock, but can also end up in odd places.

"Every once in a while you'll get a rogue  little bead in your eye or something," said Kennedy football player Ben Josie.

"We are a family and we're going to make sure we get them the best possible field and the safest possible field that they could get us and they did," said football coach Bob Bourgette.

Prato said administrators heard news reports where University of Washington assistant soccer coach Amy Griffin voiced her concerns on the issue.

She's compiled a list of at least 50 soccer players nationwide that have cancer and think there may be a link between the crumb rubber and cancer.

"I believe that there are a lot of bad things in crumb rubber," said Griffin.

She added, "it's more than my gut it's what i read and toxicologists and researchers and have heard about the story and have told me that I'm not wrong."

Prato wrote to parents about the situation saying, "We appreciate the feedback and concerns we have heard from some of you as we were just days away from installing crumb rubber fill - the final step of the installation process on our own field. Because the news is still breaking, and it will inevitably take some time for all the scientific testing to be completed and reviewed, we have decided to make a bold move as a school to prevent any unnecessary risk to our student athletes. We are replacing the black rubber fill with a cutting edge product called Nike Grind - which is simply ground up tennis shoe soles provided by the Nike Corporation.

Kennedy Catholic’s field will be one of only a few nationwide to feature this recycled material and the only known high school in Washington. Because we had a small window of time before the field opening, we felt this change was the most conservative and sound decision when facing limited information beyond the news report. To learn more about Nike Grind, visit their Reuse-A-Shoe website.

In addition to the above precautionary design component, Kennedy Catholic’s field also features a Brock surface below the turf. Brock is a padding surface specifically engineered to increase safety and sustainability of an artificial turf. Brock reduces concussion and sprain risk by acting as a shock pad. Our school will be one of only a handful of high schools nationwide to feature a Brock Powerbase pad."

The cost of swapping out the crumb rubber for the Nike Grind material will cost the school at least $20,000 more.

The new stadium already cost the school about $2.4 million.

"My pocketbook is going to be a little bit less robust but it's the safety of the kids that's going to be a piece of mind for me," said Prato.

He believes Kennedy Catholic High School may be the first high school in the state that has opted to swap out crumb rubber for the Nike Grind material.

"It's the right thing to do. it's not to make us more popular but it's the right thing to do," said Prato.

"I think it's a big piece of mind that people are doing a good thing and are safe," said Griffin.