Health concerns prompted Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington, to make a last minute change to its brand new football field set to open next week, CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO reports.
It heard about worries nationwide that a component called crumb rubber, found in most artificial turfs, may pose a health risk.
"We were days away from the infill process," Principal Mike Prato told KIRO reporter David Ham. "We said regardless, stop everything."
The crumb rubber is made up of ground tires that is used as infill in the fake grass on the field. It helps to absorb shock, but can also end up in odd places.
"Every once in a while you'll get a rogue little bead in your eye or something," said Kennedy football player Ben Josie.
"We are a family and we're going to make sure we get them the best possible field and the safest possible field that they could get us and they did," said football coach Bob Bourgette.
Prato said administrators heard news reports where University of Washington assistant soccer coach Amy Griffin voiced her concerns on the issue.
She's compiled a list of at least 50 soccer players nationwide that have cancer and think there may be a link between the crumb rubber and athletes getting ill -- although no scientific studies have confirmed a connection.
"I believe that there are a lot of bad things in crumb rubber," said Griffin.
She added, "it's more than my gut, it's what I read and toxicologists and researchers and have heard about the story and have told me that I'm not wrong."
Prato wrote to parents about the situation saying, "We appreciate the feedback and concerns we have heard from some of you as we were just days away from installing crumb rubber fill - the final step of the installation process on our own field. Because the news is still breaking, and it will inevitably take some time for all the scientific testing to be completed and reviewed, we have decided to make a bold move as a school to prevent any unnecessary risk to our student athletes. We are replacing the black rubber fill with a cutting edge product called Nike Grind - which is simply ground up tennis shoe soles provided by the Nike Corporation."
The memo went on to note that "Kennedy Catholic's field will be one of only a few nationwide to feature this recycled material and the only known high school in Washington."
The cost of swapping out the crumb rubber for the Nike Grind material will cost the school an extra $20,000 or more. The new stadium already cost about $2.4 million to build.
"My pocketbook is going to be a little bit less robust but it's the safety of the kids that's going to be a piece of mind for me," said Prato. "It's the right thing to do."
"I think it's a big peace of mind that people are doing a good thing and are safe," said Griffin.
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