The list of Triangle Futbol Club Alliance (TFCA) Board of Directors (BOD) nominees was announced yesterday and by my estimation they all seem to be impressive candidates. There are four spots up for election on the board this year and so teams can vote for four of the six nominees. The one issue in this election which my wife and I are concerned about is the question of what type of surfaces the kids will play on. Given the current controversy around crumb-rubber and its possible link to cancer in soccer players, this an important issue.
Here’s a link to one of the latest articles on this issue: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/artificial-turf-debate/senators-ask-white-house-spearhead-study-crumb-rubber-turf-n501536
Soccer purists tend to prefer natural grass, but of course turf often becomes necessary when the grass fields are soggy. With the announcement that TFCA is partnering with the town of Apex to install new soccer facilities, I am curious what type of turf will be installed, and if it will include crumb-rubber fill made from recycled, ground up tires.
Personally, I wanted to know where each of the candidates stood on this issue prior to voting next week. I wrote a letter to ask them, and I wanted to share with other families / teams what I’ve learned.
As of now (Monday), I’ve received responses from all six nominees, here is a summary of each:
- Joshua Higgin – The issue needs further study. One of the things TFCA can do now is mitigate the exposure of any one team to the artificial surface by using a field rotation system that will allow teams equal access to natural grass surfaces. The issue should also be raised with soccer governing bodies (NCYSA, USYS, and US Club Soccer) to see what guidance they can offer.*
- Carolyn Nye – Turf fields should be treated as bad weather back-ups for grass surfaces, and no team should treat a turf field as their “home” field. Precautions should be put into place so players know to wash off scrapes and crumb rubber after games. For new turf fields, “organic infill” alternatives such as coconut husks or cork should be evaluated.*
- Will Wilson – We should limit playing time on turf when we have options. We should provide input on the proposed plans for Pleasant Park. Future TFCA controlled facilities should evaluate non-toxic infill alternatives such as ground up sneaker soles (as Nike has shown to be effective). Turf should be treated as an inclement weather option when natural fields are soggy.*
- Mike Williams – Good judgement should be used and all data should be taken into account. We should learn all we can from soccer programs which have faced similar situations to understand all options. The BOD should listen to constituents and make decisions with health and safety as a top priority.*
- Shelley Blake – This is a major concern for me as my daughter plays goalkeeper. There is no point in exposing our children to a possibly harmful substance. We need the federal government to express clear guidance and sign off on this before we can consider it safe. Any new facility should seek alternatives to crumb-rubber, at least until we have better evidence; and until then, we should limit their exposure.*
- Dave Lehmkuhl – The safety of players is paramount over any other concerns. TFCA should advocate the use of alternatives to crumb-rubber to the town of Apex. TFCA can maximize the time players spend on natural grass surfaces in order to minimize exposure to crumb-rubber turf.*
Based on the above responses, it’s my opinion that these six nominees are showing a thoughtful approach. It’s also encouraging when nominees show attentiveness to an issue that is important to constituents, and have taken the time to read, and respond to such a letter. I found all of the responses to be reasonable, and choosing the top four was not easy. I’m confident that my concerns have been heard, and the BOD will take the crumb-rubber turf issue seriously going forward.
Personally, I am most impressed by the responses from Shelley Blake, Will Wilson, Carolyn Nye and Dave Lehmkuhl. These are the four nominees I will support my team voting for.
If I receive a response from the sixth nominee, I will update this blog to reflect his input, and I will reevaluate my selections for the top four. (note: Response from Dave Lehmkuhl was received on Sunday 1/31, and this article was edited on 2/1 to reflect his response and revise the list of four supported nominees)
Below is a quick overview of the controversy surrounding crumb-rubber infill, a short blurb about my family’s involvement with TFCA, and the full text of my letter to the BOD nominees.
For years now, people in the soccer community have been raising questions about the safety of crumb-rubber coming from ground up tires. This is based on what seems to be an unusually high number of players (especially goalkeepers who have the most exposure) developing Leukemia and Lymphoma. Since there are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals contained in the tires, some wondered if this could be the reason so many goalkeepers were developing cancer. Of course the artificial turf industry executives dispute the idea of any correlation and point to studies which have shown no proven connection between crumb rubber exposure and cancer. A bi-partisan group of congressional leaders has asked the EPA to take a stand on the issue, which is something that the artificial turf companies also want. Currently, there is ongoing collaboration between the Center for Disease Control, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency to examine the issue in greater detail and conclusively determine if playing on crumb-rubber surfaces creates an elevated health risk for players.
About me: My family has been involved in TFCA since last Spring and my son Nick has really enjoyed playing on the team. Nick tried out for both TFCA and CASL, but in the end we chose to join TFCA and have been very happy. In addition to having a great coach (Bobby Johnston), we’ve been glad to see that the boys mostly play on natural grass surfaces.
Full text of my letter to the TFCA BOD Nominees:
I am the father of an 8 year old player on the TFCA FAST CAM Navy team coached by Bobby Johnston. Thank you all for volunteering your services for the organization. I was very impressed by the variety and depth of experience you offer, I’m sure you would all do a great job.
But since we may only vote for 4 of you, I wanted to ask one question about your stance on a particular issue.
By now most of us have heard about the controversy surrounding the use of turf fields with crumb rubber fill (made from ground up tires). If you are not familiar, you can read an article here:
While this surface has become popular, some have become concerned by the apparent association between exposure to crumb rubber and the incidence of Leukemia and Lymphoma, especially for those players with the most turf contact (Goalkeepers).
I realize that it would be virtually impossible to prevent TFCA players from ever playing on crumb rubber turf surfaces, but do think the organization should seek to minimize the time the players spend on them. This would seem to be a prudent precaution at least until more scientific studies can be completed, and more answers become available.
What is your position on TFCA player exposure to crumb rubber turf fields? With the new agreement with the town of Apex to install turf fields, will you advocate for these to not include the type of crumb rubber that has become controversial?
I will appreciate any thoughts/opinions you can offer here.
Thanks and Kind Regards,
Derek V. DeShane
*The summaries of nominee responses were created by Derek V. DeShane for brevity and the wording is paraphrased. Please let me know if you would like to see the full text of each response.
[This post was first published on 1/30/16 and edited on 2/1/16]