Will the EU blow the whistle on 100,000 toxic sports pitches?


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Players have little idea of how toxic the microplastic granules added to pitches are, reports Jack Hunter.

Microplastic pollution is out of control, according to EU scientists. By far the largest use of microplastic is spent vehicle tyres ground-up and used on synthetic football and other sports pitches. Tyres include synthetic rubber, a plastic polymer with lots of toxic additives. So the granules are a real worry, so much so they are banned from waste landfill sites. 

Young and adult players alike have little idea about potential risks of a carcinogenic and genotoxic off-gas coming from pitches, regularly found at high levels, nor the 500kg of toxic granules that spill off the average pitch every year and poison the environment, packed with a cocktail of chemical additives and heavy metals, including high levels of zinc and chlorine

There are a lot of pitches – around 100,000 are forecast be in place before 2021. These generate a flood of 16,000 tonnes of granule pollution every year in Europe. Even the strictest pollution controls predict an estimated 50kg of granule pollution will be released per pitch. 

Little wonder then that after being asked by the European Chemicals Agency to look into the matter, an EU panel of scientific experts last year recommended a complete ban of tyre granule pitch infill. The granules were a surprise addition to the original list of microplastics being considered for a ban, added only after it became clear quite how large their use is.

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