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Since 2009, American soccer trainer Amy Griffin has kept a record of players who played on artificial turf filled in with rubber granules and got cancer. She fears there may be a link between the disease and this material made of old car tyres. Today there are 230 players on her list.
Nigel Maguire, former head of a regional health service in England, campaigns for better research into this tyre crumb. His son used to be a goal keeper and he got leukaemia.
Around the world, millions of children and adults play sports on this kind of artificial turf every day. The Netherlands have just under 2000 of these fields. The rubber granules contain zinc, lead, benzene, and PAHs: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, substances proven to be carcinogenic. All the parties involved - the authorities, the rubber producers, the National Football Association, and National Institute for Public Health RIVM - have been saying for years that there is no health risk whatsoever.
In this broadcast, ZEMBLA proves that the studies upon which that opinion is based are dubious. Expert scientists demonstrate that the health risks have never been studied in any reliable way. And ZEMBLA shows how the tyre industry's trade associations have lobbied effectively to stop stricter European legislation.
The broadcast caused a great deal of debate and upheaval in the Netherlands. Close to a hundred sports clubs took measures when the show had aired. Parents raised the issue with their children’s soccer clubs, and dozens of matches were cancelled in the weekend after the broadcast. The Health Minister instructed RIVM to conduct new studies immediately.
The broadcast, and the commotion it caused, also drew the attention of other countries. The Spanish daily El País, the Italian La Gazzetta dello Sport, the English Mirror and Bild in Germany wrote about it, amongst others.