Some are voicing concern with an online petition and hope to see a change to the turf options at Oak Bay High.
“We were so excited to hear about the turf field going in at Oak Bay High,” said Kathryn Vallance, an Oak Bay mom of four young soccer players. Then it came to her attention there are ongoing health concerns about the use of crumb rubber pellets used as underlay for artificial turf. “There hasn’t been a 20-year study on this stuff … It’s a new enough product that we just don’t know.”
She hoped to hear the school district would consider a plant-based alternative to replace the shredded rubber tires traditionally used as the infill for artificial turf.
Among her concerns are known carcinogens, including mercury, lead, benzene and acetone in the pellets along with other irritants.
She’s also concerned about water runoff into Bowker Creek.
“The community is saying we don’t like this and we have options. We don’t want the kids to be guinea pigs or lab rats,” she said.
She started an online petition “just to let them know it’s not just me, it’s the community,” Vallance said.
The problem, she says, is that some reports say there is a significant impact, some say limited, some say we won’t know. In fact, “the bulk of them say we’re not going to know the effect for some time,” she said.
“It’s not like they spent $1.5 million and put it in… we have a window of opportunity to make changes.”
When the Greater Victoria School Board heard concerns, the secretary treasurer made a few calls to gather more information, says the superintendent.
“My understanding of the concerns is they mostly focus on the potential toxic nature of artificial turf and the crumb rubber.
I understand where there is concern but as a school jurisdiction we go to our partners in health,” said Piet Langstraat, Superintendent of Schools for the Greater Victoria School District.
“Any time a parent or group of parents express a concern I take it seriously and certainly want to be able to provide good information. I do look for the information that does come from the people I consider experts, in this case it would be Island Health.”
The Island Health report, written for the municipality of North Cowichan and released in April, specifically addresses crumb rubber, or shredded tire artificial turf.
Langstraat specifically sites the section that refers to chemical exposure and physical health effects.
“After reviewing the literature it was concluded that, although crumb rubber may contain potentially toxic metals and mutagenic organic compounds, there is insufficient evidence to indicate that the level of exposure with casual use would exceed the threshold for risk to human health,” Langstraat read.
The report concludes: “Given the current available evidence it is concluded that the existing information does not suggest that synthetic turf fields have a substantive independent effect on human health.”
The district intends to continue with construction plans for the field.
“We do need to honour everyone’s thoughts and opinions and make best decision using all evidence,” Langstraat said.
Vallance’s petition is online at thepetitionsite.com, search for ‘Oak Bay turf’ to find it.