Sierra Club Joins Appeal of Soccer Fields Decision

Sierra Club Has Joined Lawsuit to Stop Toxic Beach Chalet Soccer Fields Project

The Sierra Club has joined a lawsuit charging the City of San Francisco with failing to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in its proposed Beach Chalet Soccer Fields project.

The complaint alleges that the City:

. Is potentially putting children at risk when they play on the suspect artificial turf;

. Abdicates significant control over the quality and safety of artificial turf to a private association;

. Failed to consider a feasible alternative site outside of Golden Gate Park and a design using a safe, non-toxic artificial turf.

The Sierra Club has joined SF Coalition for Children’s Outdoor Play, Education and the Environment and other co-plaintiffs, who initially filed a Petition and Complaint against the City on October 12, 2012. City Fields Foundation, a private non-profit association that is funding part of the project and says it has spearheaded the Beach Chalet project for the past six years, has intervened as a party in the lawsuit on the City’s behalf.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the City to immediately stop the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields Project until a legally adequate Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is prepared and adopted by the City.

The Sierra Club announced on February 7 that it has joined the plaintiffs. Michelle Myers, Chapter Director of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, explained:

“The City should be protecting the health of its residents. Without giving any reason, it decided not to analyze the potential dangers of using an artificial turf that has been identified as toxic in several peer-reviewed scientific articles [see references below], and exceeds the CEQA threshold for acute toxicity and cancer risk by 120% -- as the EIR admits.”
Myers added: “When we go to a City park we should feel confident that the City has done all it can to ensure the safety of the park. In this case, the City has failed to do this by ignoring its CEQA responsibiities.”

Sierra Club Bay Chapter Chairman Arthur Feinstein pointed out: “This is why we have a California Environmental Quality Act. It is meant to ensure that decision-makers actually have all the information they need to make informed decisions that do not threaten us or our environment’s health and it also lets us, the public, know on what basis these decisions are made. In this case, however, the City decided to ignore a CEQA mandated threshold level of acute toxicity that should have triggered further investigation and possibly mitigation for potential impacts to our health.”

According to Ann Clark, Ph.D., founder of San Francisco Coalition for Children's Outdoor Play, Education and the Environment, another plaintiff in the lawsuit: "A successful outcome of this lawsuit will spare thousands of youth and adult soccer players exposure to toxic artificial turf. In addition, every San Francisco resident and visitor to Golden Gate Park will benefit, since the project has other environmental impacts, including the exposure of the underlying water to toxic chemicals, increase of greenhouse gas emissions, damage to Golden Gate Park's ecosystems, and impact on the dark night sky, important to many amateur astronomers, neighborhood residents, and thousands of migratory birds. This CEQA case is vital for the protection of the health of children and adults as well as Golden Gate Park's unique environment at the west-end of San Francisco next to Ocean Beach."

The City abdicated its responsibility in a 2006 agreement with the City Fields Foundation, which “gives away much of its [the City’s] ability to control the type and construction and placement of this artificial turf,” according to Myers. Furthermore, “The City has refused to analyze an alternate site that could provide the same quantity and quality of soccer experience using a non-toxic artificial turf. The City instead decided to desecrate the natural character of the west end of Golden Gate Park with:
• stadium lighting on ten 60-foot-tall light poles, broadcasting 150,000 watts of light, 365 days a year, until 10 p.m.;
• the installation of stadium seating for 1,000 spectators
• while paving and expanding the existing parking lot by 30%.

The Amended Petition and Complaint joined by the Sierra Club alleges several deficiencies in the EIR, including:

1) The EIR fails to disclose the significant health risks of the toxic chemicals found in the styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) tire crumb used in the artificial turf proposed for the soccer fields and fails to consider safe alternatives to this material. In the EIR, the City admits that the material has an acute toxicity index more than double the City’s CEQA significance threshold, yet decides, without providing any reason, that this is not significant (“the hazard index was 2.2, sufficiently close to a hazard index of 1.” EIR).

2) The City, in a 2006 Memorandum of Understanding with City Fields Foundation, gave up significant control of the type of artificial turf used:
“The Foundation will select a contractor or contractors of its choice to perform all services relating to site preparation and installation of the Fields. The Foundation will fund all costs associated with the Foundation contracts or subcontracts for construction management, design consultation/value engineering, and contractor's work, and with the acquisition of all materials and supplies necessary for the contractor to perform its work, including, but not limited to, the Turf.”


Quotations from the Sierra Club's brief that relate to the dangers of artificial turf, including quotations from a number of key publications:

• The EIR relies on a study conducted by the California Environmental Protection Agency Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in 2009. That study concludes that artificial turf fields with SBR crumb rubber infill create a cancer risk of approximately 18.8 per million – 18 times above the CEQA significance threshold. The OEHHA Study concludes:
"Estimated inhalation exposures of soccer players to five of these (benzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene, nitromethane and styrene) gave theoretical increased lifetime cancer risks that exceeded the insignificant risk level of 10-6 (OEHHA, 2006)." (p.33)
California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) (2009):

Chemical Increased Cancer Risk
Benzene 2.8/million
Formaldehyde 1.6/million
Naphthalene 3.8/million
Nitromethane 8.7/million
Styrene 1.9/million
CUMULATIVE: 18.8/million

• A study published in 2011 in a peer-reviewed journal, Science of the Total Environment, concludes that soccer pitches with SBR infill create a significant cancer risk above 1 per million due to dioxin-like chemicals. Menichini, et al., Sci Total Environ. 2011 Nov 1;409(23):4950-7. Epub 2011 Sep 9. The article concludes:
“The artificial-turf granulates made from recycled rubber waste are of health concern due to the possible exposure of users to dangerous substances present in the rubber, and especially to PARs [petroleum hydrocarbons]. In this work, we determined the contents of PARs, metals, nondioxin-like PCBs (NDL- PCBs), PCDDs and PCDFs in granulates, and PAR concentrations in air during the use of the field… an excess lifetime cancer risk of 1 x10(-6) was calculated for an intense 30-year activity.”

• The EIR fails to analyze health risks from dioxin-like compounds at all.

• The City refused to consider the most recent peer-reviewed scientific journal article on SBR, published in the highly respected journal Chemosphere, entitled “Hazardous Organic Chemicals in Rubber Recycled Tire Playgrounds and Pavers” (Llompart, M., et. al.) that became available on August 22, 2012. The study investigated the presence of hazardous organic chemicals in surfaces containing recycled rubber tires. The study was initiated because of a concern that the application of used tires in recycled products such as rubber mulch used for sport fields and playground surfaces places children at risk. The study revealed that the used tires on sport fields and playground surfaces contain a large number of hazardous substances including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phthalates, antioxidants, benzothiazole and derivatives, among other chemicals. Many of these hazardous substances were at high or extremely high levels. In addition, vapor studies revealed that many of the organic compounds are volatile even at room temperature. The study concludes that because of the “presence of a high number of harmful compounds, frequently at high or extremely high levels, in these recycled rubber materials…they should be carefully controlled, and their final use should be restricted or even prohibited in some cases.”

• Dr. Phillip Landrigan, MD, epidemiologist and Director of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Children's Environmental Health Center in New York, submitted a letter to the City Planning Department on May 8, 2012, stating:
The major chemical components of crumb rubber are styrene and butadiene, the principal ingredients of the synthetic rubber used for tires in the United States. Styrene is neurotoxic. Butadiene is a proven human carcinogen. It has been shown to cause leukemia and lymphoma. The crumb rubber pellets that go into synthetic turf fields also contain lead, cadmium and other metals. Some of these metals are included in tires during manufacture, and others picked up by tires as they roll down the nation's streets and highways. There is a potential for all of these toxins to be inhaled, absorbed through the skin and even swallowed by children who play on synthetic turf fields. Only a few studies have been done to evaluate this type of exposure risk, the most notable by EPA in 2009, NY State DEC in 2009, and CT DEP in 2012.

• Matthew Hagemann, C.Hg., former director of US EPA’s West Coast Superfund program, concludes that the project will have significant cancer and non-cancer health risks. Mr. Hagemann states:
Toxins from tire crumb can enter the body through inhalation of particulates, fibers, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs can cause organ damage, irritation of eyes, throat, and airways, and nervous system impairments. Synthetic turf can be heated to high temperatures when exposed to sunlight which, in turn, can lead to further release of VOCs.
The DEIR includes references to synthetic turf studies that have shown risks to human health from inhalation of VOCs to exceed a commonly accepted threshold of one additional cancer incidence in a population of a million people (“one in a million or 10- 6”). Although this is disclosed in the DEIR, the DEIR fails to identify this as a significant impact and fails to mitigate the risk.
One study cited in the DEIR, a 2009 study prepared by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), concludes that soccer players with inhalation exposure to vapors from a theoretical scenario of playing for 51 years on synthetic turf would have increased “lifetime cancer risks that exceeded the insignificant risk level of 10-6” from breathing benzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene, nitromethane and styrene, chemicals associated with VOC vapors from synthetic turf. The OEHHA finding of significant health risks was corroborated by a 2011 Italian study in which showed risk to be in excess of 10-6 from particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Another 2011 study found that benzothiazole, a chemical that causes respiratory irritation and dermal sensitization, volatilizes from crumb rubber resulting in inhalation exposure. The latter two studies are not mentioned in the DEIR.
The individual risks from benzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene, nitromethane and styrene each exceed the one in a million threshold. When summed, the cancer risk from chemicals identified in the OEHHA study equals 1.9 in 100,000 which exceeds a 10-5 level (or one in a hundred thousand) risk level (19 in a million).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Arthur Feinstein: (415) 680-0643
Michelle Myers: (415) 646-6930