Artificial Turf Cancer Lawsuits

March 14, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Artificial Turf Cancer Lawsuits

Many athletes and sports fans are familiar with artificial turf but few are aware of the growing concern over this material’s potential connections to cancer due to PFAS. Artificial turf, commonly known as astroturf, is a surface made of synthetic fibers intended to replicate the look and feel of a grass field. 

Many athletic departments and sports organizations have turned to this alternative to natural grass fields since it does not require water or trimming but new studies have suggested that the synthetic materials like PFAS that compose these surfaces could cause cancer. Six former Philadelphia Phillies players have passed away due to similar cancers that may be related to their playing artificial turf. 

Many playing fields and recreational areas utilize artificial turf which may potentially increase the risk of cancer among those exposed. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with cancer and believe that long-term exposure to artificial turf may be a contributing factor then do not hesitate to contact Dolman Law Group. You may be entitled to compensation for your damages through a personal injury lawsuit.

What Exactly is Artificial Turf?

To the naked eye, artificial turf seems like a fairly innocuous surface that might even be mistaken for real grass until closer inspection. However, this convincing grass facsimile may harbor very real danger due to the synthetic materials that compose it. 

Artificial turf was first developed in the 60s in the North Carolina research triangle. It was very quickly implemented in 1964 and first installed in a recreation area at the Moses Brown School in Providence Rhode Island. Since then, artificial turf has been installed in sports fields across the United States. 

What makes artificial turf so resilient and desired by athletic and recreational organizations is its makeup of many durable synthetic substances. The individual blades of artificial grass are made of nylon, polypropylene, or polyethylene fibers that are woven with yarn fibers. These blades of grass are woven into a backing that can be made of perforated felt, latex, polyester, or polyethylene. 

Following this top layer are several additional layers of additional synthetic materials. There is typically an additional layer of thatch that lies beneath the actual grass and backing and is often made up of polypropylene. 

Following this is a cushion layer that can be made up of a combination of the following.

  • Sand
  • Rubber coated sand
  • Crumb rubber (ground-up recycled tires)
  • Plastic pellets

The Toxicity of Artificial Turf Materials

One of the primary issues with artificial turf is that the infill layer is often composed of crumb rubber that is made up of ground-up recycled tired. Recycling is usually a good thing but tire rubber is far from safe to use as a material that people come into close frequent contact with.

The small rubber pieces made from ground-up tires and used in artificial turf have been tested and shown to contain a number of dangerous substances that have been classified as carcinogens. A study conducted by Yale in 2019 showed that of the 306 chemicals present in crumb rubber, 52 are classified as carcinogens. Crumb rubber used in these fields has also been shown to contain certain heavy metals shown to increase cancer risk such as lead, chromium, zinc, cadmium, and manganese. 

Crumb rubber has also been shown to present a respiratory risk since the small pieces of rubber can release harmful gases when they heat up under the sun. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) can release harmful gasses, especially under heat that can be inhaled. The small particles that inevitably break off of crumb rubber that has been through the grinder can also be inhaled under some circumstances.

It is estimated that the average sports field made of artificial turf could contain up to 40,000 ground-up tires worth of infill. 

PFAS and Artificial Turf

Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a series of harmful chemicals that have come under intense scrutiny over the past few years due to their connection to increased cancer risk and their intense level of pollution in our environment. PFAS have been found in fields that utilize artificial turf and are considered a potential cause of cancer risk among players that come into contact with this synthetic surface. 

It is no surprise that PFAS has been found present in artificial turf since these substances have been used in a number of applications such as firefighting foam, water-repellant clothing, and food packaging since they provide waterproofing and are exceptionally durable. These desirable traits have also become major issues since PFAS takes an exceptionally long amount of time to break down and as a result, has built up in the environment to a startling degree. PFAS have been referred to as “forever chemicals” as a result and now present a significant ecological and health threat.

PFAS Related Injuries

PFAS has been linked to a number of severe injuries that have occurred among people that suffer long-term exposure. A wide range of debilitating health conditions are at increased risk of developing among people that are exposed to these substances with the following being the most notable.

  • Cancers (Bladder, Kidney, Liver, Pancreatic, Prostate, Testicular)
  • Thyroid disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Immune system problems
  • Decreased fertility

There have long been concerns regarding the safety of artificial turf but recent connections between the synthetic surface and the diagnoses of cancer among former athletes have increased scrutiny. Several former Philadelphia Phillies players have been diagnosed with similar cancers after careers spent on a field utilizing artificial turf which has raised some questions regarding the role it may have played. 

Tug McGraw, Darren Daulton, John Vukovich, John Oates, Ken Brett, and David West were all former Philadelphia Phillies players that have all died in their 40s-50s because of glioblastoma, a rare type of brain cancer. The similar diagnoses of such a rare form of cancer among these players have led many to a common variable in the players' lives which is the artificial turf they played on in Veteran’sStadium from 1971-2003. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer went so far as to get their hands on pieces of the artificial turf used as memorabilia and test them to find 16 types of PFAS. So far there is no conclusive evidence that has led experts to effectively pin the blame on the artificial turf but studies are showing that these fields potentially could be a culprit due to the knowledge that they contain PFAS and a host of other carcinogens. 

Product Liability Lawsuits Over Artificial Turf Exposure

Consumers have the right to expect reasonably safe products and at the very least deserve proper warning of potential hazards on product labeling. Artifical turf is a product that has shown a potential risk of PFAS and carcinogen exposure to unsuspecting athletes and people engaging in recreation on fields utilizing this surface.

The failure to warn people harmed by PFAS exposure to artificial turf of the potential dangers it can pose to health can be considered grounds for liability on the part of artificial turf manufacturers. An artificial turf lawsuit could provide the opportunity to seek compensation for damages like medical bills and lost wages for people that have contracted cancer or other serious health conditions because of exposure to PFAS in artificial turf.

Contact Dolman Law Group About Your Artificial Turf Cancer Lawsuit

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with cancer and have a history of exposure to artificial turf through a sport or other recreational activity then consider contacting Dolman Law Group about filing a personal injury lawsuit. Artificial turf is a product that is still beholden to consumer protection laws that provide the opportunity to seek compensation for damages in the event it harms the consumer through defective design, manufacture, or labeling. 

Dolman Law Group is a personal injury law firm that has been handling product liability lawsuits for over a decade now and has assisted many clients with recovering compensation after they have been harmed by defective products. Cancer and other illnesses linked to artificial turf could have been avoided had the makers of this surface taken the appropriate care to avoid the use of substances that are known carcinogens. The product liability lawyers of Dolman Law can help you recover compensation for damages you may have suffered due to artificial turf exposure such as medical expenses, lost wages, and even pain and suffering. 


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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