Link between cancer, artificial turf questioned

Link between cancer, artificial turf questioned
TACOMA, Wash. -- A high school soccer star's dream of playing college soccer has been blocked by cancer, and his situation has rekindled the debate over whether artificial turf is somehow responsible.

Luke Beardemphl was a 4-year letterman on the varsity soccer team at Tacoma's Stadium High School sought after by the likes of Oregon State and the Air Force Academy before settling on the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

"I mean, I thought it would be an awesome place to go to school and to play soccer," he said.

But instead of the islands, Beardemphl is heading to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was diagnosed last summer.

"I didn't know what to think at the time. I'd never been diagnosed with cancer before," he said.

But Beardemphl's parents soon found out that other soccer players had been diagnosed.

"His keeper coach knows eight," said his mother, Stephanie Beardemphl, "eight players that he has personally worked with who now have cancer."

They now wonder if it could have something to do with the artificial turf they play on.

The Federal Centers for Disease Control has recommended that some artificial turf athletic fields be tested for lead.

And there's concern about the little granules of ground up tires that contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that could be getting into the players' systems.

Beardemphl says the granules stick to the ball.

"I'll catch it. It'll stop the ball but not the pellets. They'll go into my face, go into my eyes, my mouth," said Luke.

But just this last summer the Consumer Product Safety Commission took a hard look at artificial turf and determined that it was safe.

The makers of FieldTurf say the digestive system is not powerful enough to extract the chemical components from the rubber.

That's little consolation for a young soccer star who'll celebrate Christmas early because he goes in for four months of treatment two days before the holiday, wondering if the sport he loves so much is doing him harm.

A recent effort to ban the artificial turf at Bainbridge High School failed, and efforts in several other states to ban the turf have also failed.