A former NHS Chief has spoken out this week about the dangers of 3G football pitches. Nigel Maguire's son Lewis died this month 4 years after receiving a diagnosis of the blood cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma and his father is concerned this may be related to his regular games of football on 3G pitches. As a result, he has urged the government to ban the construction of further pitches until they can be declared completely safe.
3G crumb rubber pitches are made from old tyres and therefore could contain harmful substances including arsenic, benzene, lead and mercury. These toxic substances have not only been found to cause several forms of cancer; they can also lead to respiratory conditions such as asthma, and conditions affecting the brain and central nervous system.
The pitches are scattered with rubber pellets which are meant to improve the bounce of the ball. Nigel Maguire has pointed out that as a keen goalkeeper, his son would often swallow these pellets and they would also get into the grazes caused by diving.
Mr Maguire isn't simply a grieving parent looking to find someone to blame for the devastation of losing his 20 year old son. The former Chief Executive of NHS Cumbria was previously a nurse and he is at pains to point out that he is simply asking reasonable questions which, so far, no one has been able to answer. His concerns are supported by Professor Andrew Watterson who is an environmental health expert at the University of Stirling. He pointed out that clearer information is needed about the risks from crumb rubber pitches.
The FA have said they are aware of concerns raised about the pitches and advised they are monitoring industry research, as well as conducting their own. However unfortunately there appears to be only limited research in this area so far. Although the government has stated there is no evidence that the pitches are harmful; there is currently also no evidence which confirms they are completely safe.
However a study carried out by the University of Washington has found that 200 athletes who used artificial pitches regularly had developed cancer. Of those, 158 were footballers and 95 of those were goalkeepers. Research such as this has been picked up on in Holland and the government there has urged the EU to bring in restrictions on some of the chemicals used to produce the pitches.
On a daily basis across Scotland hundreds of individuals easily come into contact with the potentially harmful substances involved in 3G for long periods of time – from the workers who install the pitches to the footballers who eventually play on them. In light of this information, surely steps should be taken to halt the construction or use of these pitches at least until research has concluded they are entirely safe?
Blog by Claire Campbell, Solicitor