Turf troubles: Study finds alarming rate of PFAS contamination in young athletes

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pfas-exposure(NaturalHealth365)  Exercise is extremely important for every stage of life, and organized sports teams are a great way to build camaraderie and team spirit while getting the critical physical activity that everyone needs.  Youth sports, in particular, are huge community events as well, and while many kids have the opportunity to play their sports on beautiful grass fields, particularly in cities, the turf these children play on is artificial.

A new study has discovered that the plastic and fiberglass turf used in youth athletic fields releases PFAs onto players’ skin.  PFAS, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are recognized as endocrine disruptors.  Studies have linked PFAS to various health issues, including cancer, reproductive problems, and other health complications, especially when exposure starts during childhood.

Let’s examine why PFAS are dangerous and why this is a critically important problem in the United States.

PFAS: The invisible threat on youth athletic fields

PFAS are positively correlated with various types of cancer, birth defects, immune issues, including autoimmune disorders, and a variety of other negative health effects. They’re also designated as forever chemicals because the body doesn’t necessarily clear them out the way it would other types of poisons, so they build up over time and the damage they do is multiplicative.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and many consumer regulation groups have called for the phasing out of PFAS chemicals in products made for human consumption, such as plates and bottles, but the regulations do not necessarily extend to other items.  In this particular case, synthetic turfing used in youth athletic fields at some of the over 13,000 artificially turfed athletic facilities in the United States is not only testing positive for PFAS but also showing clear signs of transference to the skin of players.

This is critically important because as students hit these artificial turfs, they are sweating and possibly damaging their skin in a way that allows these chemicals to enter their bloodstream and bodies much more easily.  While the phasing out of PFAS in consumer food goods is a positive fact, there are millions of American children participating in sports and being exposed to these chemicals every day, the amounts of which have not been fully explored.

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PFAS exposure extends beyond turf, endangering public health

One of the most alarming aspects of PFAS exposure is its delayed onset of harm.  Entire generations have suffered from PFAS contamination for decades, even after their phased-out use, and discovering that these chemicals still significantly impact our children is deeply disturbing and reprehensible.

As mentioned, PFAS exposure isn’t limited to kids playing on artificial turf; there are over 13,000 fields across the United States potentially leaching these chemicals into groundwater, affecting everyday individuals attending events or working in these facilities.

The persistence of harmful chemicals in direct contact with society’s most vulnerable members underscores corporate negligence and regulatory oversight failures, highlighting a pattern of prioritizing profit over public health and safety.

What you can do about PFAS exposure in youth sports

Particularly if you have school-aged children who are involved in athletics, it is important to speak to your school board to determine the chemical makeup of any type of artificial turf that is being put into sports facilities in your district.  Furthermore, it warrants contacting your representatives to push for these chemicals to be removed from all production in the United States forever.  Regardless of any potential benefits to PFAS-containing materials, there are endless negatives associated with their exposure, and they should be banned entirely.

If you have a child who plays youth sports and does not have the option of playing on an actual living field, you can mitigate their exposure by having them shower immediately after athletics and immediately wash their clothes.

It might be worth encouraging them to find a sport that does not require contact with a field contaminated by cancer-causing chemicals.

In the end, the fight against chemicals like this will likely continue for quite some time, but every voice like yours and every hour raised in defense of our children is one more step towards a future where these chemicals are no longer used.

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