Borders council chiefs monitoring 3G pitch research following health concerns

Gala Fairydean Rovers playing Hawick Royal Albert on Hogmanay at Galashiels' 3G pitch at Netherdale.
Gala Fairydean Rovers playing Hawick Royal Albert on Hogmanay at Galashiels' 3G pitch at Netherdale.
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Scottish Borders Council is monitoring research into health risks said to be posed by 3G sports pitches such as those now being developed in the region.

“We are aware of the concerns and have been taking advice and following the progress of international studies carefully,” said Selkirkshire councillor Vicky Davidson, the authority’s executive member for culture, sport, youth and communities.

Hawick's 3G pitch at Volunteer Park.

Hawick's 3G pitch at Volunteer Park.

She was responding last week to Tweeddale East councillor Gavin Logan’s call for a halt on the installation of further 3G pitches in the region pending the outcome of reviews currently under way in Holland and the US.

He said the former study had been prompted by a Dutch documentary, screened last year, revealing that the rubber crumb used on the artificial surfaces to give them more bounce is made from used car tyres and contains potentially harmful toxic chemicals and carcinogens.

He noted that Dutch football club Ajax had already agreed to remove all 30 of its academy’s 3G pitches.

With financial help from Sportscotland, the council installed a 3G pitch at Netherdale in Galashiels in 2012 and another at Volunteer Park in Hawick last November.

The council has already committed nearly £1m to create a facility with a similar surface at Lothian Park in Jedburgh by 2019.

The region’s 2G pitches – at Tweedbank, Peebles, Hawick and Selkirk – are sand-based and contain no pellets of rubber crumb.

Mr Logan stated: “I believe this council should, as a precautionary measure, arrange for chemical tests to be carried out on the 3G product as it is installed and guarantee that similar tests should be carried out on all products used to repair pitches when they require upgrading or replacement.”

Ms Davidson said the current advice from the Scottish Government, citing input from Health Protection Scotland, is that the levels of exposure to chemicals present in rubber crumb products have been found to be very low.

“Studies to investigate whether these compounds are released from the material on ingestion, if biomarkers of exposure are higher in players using these pitches or whether extracts of the product are mutagenic demonstrate no current health concerns,” said Ms Davidson.

“Current estimates of cancer risk associated with worst-case exposure scenarios, including to children, are below levels considered of a concern to human health.

“Therefore, based on both past and most recent research, the pitches are considered safe for use.

“The council uses reputable contractors and suppliers for the construction of their artificial pitches. The suppliers of the rubber crumb infill undertake testing to ensure it meets the legal requirements.

“The council continues to take advice from Sportscotland and other government agencies and will review its position following completion of the ongoing studies in the US and EU.”