Synthetic sports pitches might be durable and easy to maintain, but the small black beads made from old tires found in some of them contain toxic chemicals.
The French football magazine So Foot, raised the issue recently. Around 20 pitches in French speaking Switzerland are affected, according to RTS.
Several analyses have been done around the world on the rubber beads. Some were found to contain heavy metals and carcinogens, others endocrine interrupters. How much of these end up getting inhaled or absorbed by contact by those playing on these pitches is difficult to establish.
The risk of environmental pollution, waterways in particular, is another consideration.
The Swiss Football Association (ASF) told RTS that a ban would be disproportionate, referring to a study published in 2017 by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), which stated that an evaluation of european and american scientific studies done between 2004 and 2015 allow us to conclude that pitches made with rubber granules from used tires present no particular risk to the health of players or spectators.
According to RTS, some countries, such as Italy and the Netherlands, have banned the construction of sports fields using these rubber beads as a precaution, something that poses few problems as there is a healthy alternative: cork. It costs a bit more but comes without the chemicals.
A child who plays on one of these football fields in Switzerland told Le News he sometimes sees children chewing the beads.
At the very least parents should know about this so they can warn their children not to put these beads in their mouths.