Why safety is a big factor in pitch specification

It's no secret that concerns are growing when it comes to the safety of rubber crumb pitch infill. With Echa's ongoing research into the long term effects of SBR on human health, more and more governing bodies and clubs are seeking greater reassurances that their new artificial pitches are going to be safe for their players, for years to come.

As the UK’s biggest recycler of end of life tyres, we explore new ways of developing products that combine performance and safety, while continuing to use the valuable resources extract from recycled tyres.

A year on since we launched PRO-gran - a new concept in artificial pitch infill that meets REACH criteria for a consumer product - we are seeing a real change in how pitch tenders and being specified.

PRO-gran is now being played on across four continents, and the commonalities behind the decisions to use alternative infills to rubber crumb is one of safety.

Clubs driving change

When specifying their new pitch, FC Barcelona included in the tendering process a review of the selected infills by the club's medical team. As PRO-gran exceeds Europe’s toxicology criteria for consumer products, the medical team approved it is as safe for the club’s team to play on.

SV Loosdrecht in Holland specified that any infill included within the tending process needed the relevant test reports to confirm the infill’s levels of restricted PAH’s are those defined for consumer products. Not wanting to compromise pitch performance, the club selected PRO-gran because the playing experience is better than that of rubber crumb and the product exceeds REACH’s criteria as an article.

In Singapore, the Ministry for Education wanted to update 150 of its school's facilities with artificial pitches.   The tendering process included a review of a variety of infill products; PRO-gran's safety credentials, heat reduction characteristics and pitch lifetime guarantee made it the Ministry's infill of choice.

External factors 

Although the joint proposal from ECHA and Netherlands to restrict the concentration limits of restricted PAH’s in rubber crumb, is still under consultation, the result of this process has potentially heightened awareness that the effect of SBR infill on human health is inconclusive. Many specifiers are looking beyond what they typically select and are seeking alternatives that provide the peace of mind that their players will be safe, and their investments protected for the long-term.

It is also potentially one of conscience. Where alternative products exist and are known to be safe, the decision to use crumb rubber becomes much harder to justify and potentially carries a higher risk. The mere fact that regulatory and federal bodies are investigating SBR in Europe and the USA is enough to make specifiers review their options and play it safer with their choice of infill.

The future 

The outcomes from different studies of rubber crumb can only be a good thing for the industry. The findings will provide the clarity needed to help pitch owners make the right decisions for their clubs, their players and communities.

As a leading infill manufacturer, we continue to explore new solutions that maximise performance and player experience, while being safe to use.

Please get in touch if you would like to know more about PRO-gran.

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