Turf war: Oak Bay parents fight against potentially toxic field
A group of concerned parents are asking the school district to not use a potentially toxic substance on the new sports field at Oak Bay High.
The substance is called “crumb rubber,” a type of granular particle used to make fields softer and help control moisture.
But there are investigations underway in the U.S. following a spike in soccer players who use those fields showing up at cancer clinics.
The group, which included two physicians, made a presentation to the Greater Victoria School District Monday night saying they’re worried about the health of their children.
“Oak Bay High’s artificial turf is under construction and [we] wanted to see if there was any way that we could get them heading down the path of a non-toxic alternative,” said Kathryn Vallance.
Parents are now asking the district to consider an organic alternative to the artificial turf.
“We’re proposing a cork and coconut substrate that’s a non-toxic, organic infill that can be used instead of crumb rubber,” said Shawn Davison, estimating it would cost about $100,000 more than the usual turf.
District superintendent Piet Langstraat said he’s currently in the process of collecting information about the crumb rubber and its potential health hazards.
He said the district is “open” to using different material on both the Oak Bay and Victoria High sports fields and hopes to have a decision with the next couple of weeks.
An online petition started by Vallance to replace the planned crumb rubber field had received about 249 signatures by Tuesday morning.
In November, a University of Washington soccer coach said she started to see a pattern of athletes who used the crumb rubber fields being diagnosed with cancer.
That launched further investigations in the U.S., but no health agencies in Canada are probing what effect the material has on health.