City Council to vote on Meadowdale Playfields project Monday

An aerial view of the playfields to be renovated. (Image courtesy the City of Lynnwood)

On Monday, May 22, the Lynnwood City Council will decide whether or not to award a construction bid, which will include crumb rubber as the preferred material, for the Meadowdale Playfields renovation project.

The Lynnwood City Council briefly discussed the project as a memo item during Monday night’s business meeting. The project, using a crumb rubber infill, is listed on the council’s consent agenda for Monday, May 22. The Edmonds School District, which owns the land the playfields sit on and has final say in the materials used for the project, approved crumb rubber use on Tuesday, May 9. The district will further discuss the renovations during its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 23.

Local activists opposed to the use of crumb rubber infill aren’t backing down. An anti-crumb rubber rally is planned for Monday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m. outside Lynnwood City Hall.

“The product has many of us concerned, particularly around children, because the science is inconclusive. We do not know,” local activist Laura Johnson told the Lynnwood City Council during a special meeting on Wednesday, May 17.

According to the rally’s Facebook event page, organizers want to see cork infill used on the field, the only organic infill product considered for the project.

After base construction bids to renovate Meadowdale Playfields came in nearly $500,000 higher than expected, it appears unlikely that officials will approve a more expensive, alternate infill on the fields.

The City of Lynnwood has found several options, including excess capital project funds from other recent projects, to make up for the difference to fund the base bid, which includes crumb rubber as the field’s infill. However, an alternative infill would require extra dollars.

According to the low bid by Hellas Construction, Inc., which would win the bid if approved Monday, coated crumb rubber would cost an additional $66,900. Natural cork infill would cost an extra $357,000.

The City of Lynnwood does not expect its partners in the project, the City of Edmonds or the Edmonds School District, to contribute extra money.

“Lynnwood would have to make up the gap for an alternative substance,” Sarah Olson, the City of Lynnwood’s deputy parks and recreation director, told the City Council on Monday.

Olson also said getting an alternate substance approved by the two partner entities could take time, which could put the entire project at risk. There is a time limit on the low bid before it expires, and some grants awarded to the project also have time limits.

Councilmember Shannon Sessions mentioned there are eight fields in the Edmonds School District that already use crumb rubber infill, including Lynnwood High School and Meadowdale High School. Ten local youth and athletic organizations in the area, including Pacific Little League, Sno-King Youth Club, Edmonds Eagles Lacrosse Club and Edmonds Lacrosse Club, have all submitted letters of support for the project to the City of Lynnwood.

Over the past months, however, residents have voiced their preference for alternative infills, citing concerns regarding crumb rubber’s known content of heavy metals and other toxic materials. Parent advocates have voiced concerns about their kids coming into contact with the materials while playing sports. Others are worried runoff from the fields could be harmful to local wildlife.

Crumb rubber opponents look to the cities of Seattle, Shoreline and Kenmore, which have all recently installed artificial fields that use organic cork for infill.

Earlier this year, Julia Garmire, who lives near the playfields, posted signs urging her neighbors to share their concerns with the Lynnwood City Council and partners on the project.

Crumb rubber has been a topic of debate for a few years in southern Snohomish County. After some community members protested the Edmonds School Board’s decision to use crumb rubber infill on sports fields at the Woodway Campus, the Edmonds City Council in December 2015 passed an 18-month ban on public athletic fields made with the material. In April, the Edmonds council voted unanimously to extend the ban for another six months, until February 2018.

A study released earlier this week by Maryland-based Jenkins Environmental Inc. found that children playing on crumb rubber fields have a cancer risk at or below one in one million, the Everett Herald reports.

A Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) study released earlier this year found no direct correlation between playing on crumb rubber fields and the cancer rate among soccer players. However, critics say the study uses too small of a sample size and more research needs to be done. The EPA is conducting a broader study that is expected to have results available later this year.

The study by the WSDOH also included recommendations for athletes to wash their hands and change their clothes as soon as possible after playing on crumb rubber fields. Because of those recommendations, the Edmonds School Board recently discussed installing signs at artificial fields outlining best practices for those playing on the fields.

A highly anticipated national review by the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission regarding crumb rubber risk is still underway.

–By Natalie Covate


  1. Info on organic infill/cork from Hellas Construction, the lowest bidder for this project:

    Hellas video on organic/cork infill field

    South Kitsap High field installed by Hellas Construction using organic/cork infill

    Video of South Kitsap Field


  2. Though very concerned about using waste-tires as infill material, many of us are excited about the upcoming Meadowdale Field renovations. We need more updated fields for our kids to play on! However, we are asking Lynnwood to join the growing list of communities all around who are choosing not to use the waste tire materials.

    Seattle Parks and Rec and Seattle Public Schools are moving away from its use, choosing CORK instead.

    Cities of Kenmore and Shoreline have chosen to go with CORK for upcoming field replacements. South Kitsap, Vashon Island, Anacortes, Mercer Island, and Lakewood High Schools are all choosing not to use waste tires as infill.

    Some municipalities currently utilizing crumb rubber are beginning to set aside funds for its removal. In April of 2017, the Minneapolis School District took steps to set aside 3.2 million dollars to remove and replace the tire mulch from all 47 of its playgrounds.

    All around the country schools, parks and rec. Departments and city councils are moving away from the use of waste tires on athletic fields and playgrounds. They are beginning to ask “Do we continue to push for an outdated product with a number of concerns, or do we advocate for safer infill options?”

    Cork is a safer, viable, and proven infill option. Cork will cost more upfront, but in the end, the cost of choosing to stick with crumb rubber may be high because of the potential need for warning signage requirement or early replacement, not to mention possible litigation.

    Besides avoiding the toxic risk of the waste tires mix, there are other safety reasons not to choose crumb rubber. Crumb rubber increases heat illness risk during the high-use summer months. Crumb rubber absorbs heat, so the temperature of the fields are much higher than the surrounding air temperature. According to a BYU study, an 80-85°F day can result in temperatures of 120- 146°F. This type of increase can add to the risk of heat-related illness during warm summer months. Using CORK, which does not absorb heat, can lessen the increase and thereby reduce the risk of heat illness, plus allow the fields to be used more during the warm summer months.

    There is also the environmental concern that the heavy metals in the chemical makeup of the crumb rubber could leach into groundwater, streams, and other bodies of water. and harm aquatic life.


  3. More information on concerns with crumb Rubber:

    The technical name of the tire crumb rubber is styrene-butadiene rubber or SBR. Butadiene is a known human carcinogen and Styrene is a neurotoxic chemical.

    No government agency has concluded that playing on crumb rubber is safe.

    In fact, these agencies advise players to take precautions when playing on crumb rubber showering after play, avoid eating or drinking on the field, and wash hands before eating.

    There is no dispute that tires contain toxins- including a number of known carcinogens, reprotoxins, and neurotoxins. The only debate is over the bioavailability of the chemicals. These chemicals are absorbed into bodies during normal play through dermal contact, they are sometimes embedded in wounds, swallowed during play, and inhaled as a microscopic dust. Dr. Stuart Shalet, an expert on pollution and its effect on children’s health and Director of the Division of Environmental Health for the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, gives a detailed explanation on turf inhalation and particles in this video:

    What if, instead of relying on industry-backed or influenced studies we looked to the health effects researchers for advice? The epidemiologists, endocrinologists, and other prevention-based fields whose main interest is in preventing and treating disease. These professionals are calling for caution with the use of crumb rubber- especially around children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that ”there are large data gaps in our knowledge of the precise health effects of playing on these surface” and Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center states that “given the hazards associated with recycled rubber, it is our recommendation that these products never be used as surfaces where children play.”,%20Icahn%20School%20of%20Medicine%20at%20Mount%20Sinai-TMY.PDF

    Barry Boyd, MD: Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, Oncologist at Greenwich Hospital and Affiliate Member of the Yale Cancer Center, warns that “because artificial turf playing fields are disproportionately used by children and adolescents, these childhood exposures to environmental carcinogens may add to the lifelong risk of cancer.

    Dr. Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health, Mount Sinai Hospital and recognized worldwide as a leader in children’s health, has stated that there is “not one study that attempts to measure the effects that long-term, repeated exposure to tire shreds or ground rubber could have on young children”. “Children go to playgrounds almost daily, and gifted athletes are on the soccer field almost every day. That sort of cumulative exposure results in a buildup in their body of these toxic chemicals and can result in a buildup of cellular damage that’s caused by these chemicals, that can then result in disease years or decades late. Little children should not be put in a situation where they’re forced to be in intimate contact with carcinogenic chemicals.”

    Full results of the Yale/Environmental Human Health Inc Study on crumb rubber

    ESPN E:60 Turf War Documentary

    Letter from top health professionals concerning the inadequacies of the Washington State Department of Health study

    Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center: How Can We Make Synthetic Turf Fields Less Toxic?




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