The latest ECHA study on plastic and rubber granules used as infill in artificial sports pitches identifies certain chemicals potentially present in the infill that could pose risks to people or the environment. The ECHA proposes that any further work to examine whether these substances in rubber infill pose a risk to human health or the environment that is not adequately controlled should be done by preparing a REACH restriction proposal. ECHA notes that recently published studies may provide new information on the risks of substances, which would need to be taken into account in any further work.
ECHA Study on Crumb Rubber Content
The study was requested from the ECHA by the European Commission in 2017 following the restriction proposal by the Dutch authorities on eight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in rubber granules and mulches. It also links to the restriction proposal for intentionally-added microplastics, which is currently in the Commission for decision making.
The Summary follows:
Prioritisation and preliminary risk assessment of substances in infill material
In response to concerns about the risks posed by substances in plastic and rubber granulates used on synthetic turf pitches, the Commission requested ECHA on 29 August 2017 to examine the available data on substances of concern to human health or the environment in plastic and rubber granulates used as infill in synthetic turf pitches. The aim of the review was to identify whether any such substances should be subject to risk management. The assessment does not include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in rubber and plastic granules, as these are already proposed to be restricted under REACH by the Netherlands.
For this report, ECHA (i) gathered information on substances in infill material, (ii) performed a prioritisation exercise to identify, of those substances reported to be present in infill, those that are likely to be of greatest potential concern for human health or the environment and (iii) conducted preliminary human health and environmental risk assessments to identify candidates for potential risk management.
The conclusions of the report are, as follows:
The preliminary human health risk assessment does not exclude a potential for cobalt and zinc to pose risks to human health in infill and that these substances should therefore be considered for risk management.
The preliminary environmental risk assessment does not exclude the potential for cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, zinc, 4-tert-octylphenol, 4,4´-isopropylidene diphenol (BPA), bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) and benzothiazole-2-thiol to pose risks to the environment and that these substances should therefore be considered for risk management.
Any further work to establish whether there is a risk for human health or the environment from these substances in rubber infill that is not adequately controlled is recommended to be done within the context of the preparation of an Annex XV restriction proposal.
It is important to note that alongside this assessment ECHA has, at the request of the Commission, proposed a restriction on intentionally added microplastics, that includes within its scope infill used on synthetic turf pitches. The decision by the Commission and the Member States on the implementation of the proposed microplastics restriction (i.e. whether and under which timescale a ban on the use of microplastics as infill on synthetic pitches was required) will affect the need for risk management for the substances identified in this report in infill, potentially making any further risk management unnecessary. In the event that microplastic infill is banned, non-microplastic uses of recycled ELT (e.g. mulches) may still require further risk management.
ECHA notes that the gathering of the substances in infill material was done after receiving the request from the Commission. In any further work, newly published information needs to be gathered in addition to any updates of the registrations as regards the production of substances in tyres.
1. ECHA agreed with the Commission to postpone the finalisation of this assessment (and any further risk assessment / risk management of substances in infill) until after the opinion-making on the restriction proposal on intentionally added microplastics was concluded.
2. ECHA’s scientific committees for risk (RAC) and socio-economic analysis (SEAC) concluded their opinion making on the proposed restriction on intentionally added microplastics in December 2020. At the time of publication, the proposal is subject to decision making by the Commission and Member States.