The 11,000 artificial turf fields that dot the country are great for a few reasons. For one, no grass stains. For another, they need no water or pesticides. But for soccer coach Amy Griffin, there's one glaring problem. She's compiled a list of some 38 US soccer players diagnosed with cancer in recent years and says the artificial turf could be making players sick, NBC News reports in an exclusive. "I've coached for 26, 27 years," Griffin says. "My first 15 years, I never heard anything about this. All of a sudden it seems to be a stream of kids." Though chemicals have been found in the air above fields, Griffin suspects the tiny black pellets—crumb rubber made from old tires, which can contain benzene, carbon black, and lead—that add bounce to the field.
NBC poked around and found no research linking crumb turf to cancer, but neither did it find evidence that "the product had been sufficiently tested." The idea first occurred to Griffin in 2009. She was visiting a goalie going through chemotherapy when a nurse said, "You're the fourth goalkeeper I've hooked up this week." Goalies tend to have a lot of contact with the field as they dive at the ball, and pellets can stick to their cuts and enter their mouths. Griffin says 34 of the 38 players on her list played goalkeeper and many developed blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia. The Synthetic Turf Council maintains that the turf is "safe" and says 14 studies back up that claim. However, many experts say such studies are limited, and the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges "more testing needs to be done." Click for the full piece. (Read more AstroTurf stories.)