Friday, October 02, 2015

Cancer, kids and crumb fields ... by gimleteye

NBC News picked up the thread of toxic exposure, cancer and regulatory failure. For two consecutive nights, Nightly News with Lester Holt explored the story of kids who play on artificial turf -- called "crumb fields" because they are cushioned by shredded and pulverized used tires -- and contract cancer.

The link between the incidence of cancer and the playing fields is unsubstantiated, but it is unsubstantiated because -- according to the U.S. EPA -- there is not money in the agency budget to do the research. Meanwhile, industry has done its own research and finds no fault with putting kids next to toxics.

If the story sounds familiar, that is because our times are literally defined by this script: it is called, regulatory failure.

The reason we have parents pulling their children from sports played on artificial turf filled with tire crumbs is because parents don't trust government. The reason government can't be trusted on toxics is because industries that control legislatures through the campaign finance system make sure that agencies like the U.S. EPA are poorly funded or otherwise handicapped.

Environmental regulations put "undue burden" on corporate profits. That is the mantra expressed most clearly, but not exclusively, by the Republican Party at the federal level, the state level, and right here in Miami-Dade County where one of Mayor Carlos Gimenez' early initiatives in his first term was to knee-cap the Department of Environmental Protection, DERM.

The magic trick through which regulatory failure spreads across the landscape is part of a right-wing, extremist political agenda that subjugates science to ideology. Moreover, that ideology is based on the erosion of federal mandates to protect the environment. For example, in Florida -- under constant pressure from politicians -- the EPA "delegated" authority for water quality monitoring and enforcement to the state. The state has not only shirked its responsibility to regulate toxics, the GOP-led legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have actively campaigned against any intrusion by the EPA on tightening water quality rules.

"I think the federal government should step up to the plate," Jerry Hill, a California state senator, told NBC News, without adding that the federal government is unable to step up to the plate because budgets and missions have been blocked by the GOP.

Hill proposed California legislation this year that would have postponed the installation of new fields until a comprehensive study was performed. "We want to know, 'Is this a product that is safe for our children, and protecting their health, or is it not?'"

Don't look to Florida for help.

Here, industry -- whether it is Big Sugar saying there is nothing wrong with burning its cane fields and spewing toxics into the atmosphere or Koch Brothers' paper manufacturing in North Florida dumping millions of gallons of waste into once pristine waterways -- always has its public relations trigger-ready. Here is the Safe Fields Alliance: "More research can always be done, and we are willing to support any additional scientific studies in any way we can. However, it should be pointed out that over a decade of research has not produced a single published, peer-reviewed study that shows that crumb rubber is unsafe."

The EPA can't "step up to the plate" because the entire agency has been so shell-shocked by mortar rounds from the GOP majority in Congress that it can't even find its way out of the dugout much less the batter's box.

Watching soccer moms on TV, telling stories of family tragedy and children who played on crumb fields and knocked down by cancer, one wonders: are they even aware that their elected officials view environmental protection as expendable?

It has been more than a decade since my youngest son left playing youth soccer in Miami-Dade County. But it has only been four months since I wrote about statistical evidence -- analyzed by the most qualified statistical analysts in the nation -- of pediatric cancer clusters in our area.

I will never forget that I coached youth soccer for more years than I played the beautiful game. As an adult, I actively supported youth league formation, I helped bring many children to soccer fields, I helped bring soccer fields to communities in West Dade under-served by parks, and I will never forget that neither Miami-Dade County nor the State of Florida has responded to the statistical evidence of pediatric cancer in our midst.

You know how the bumper sticker says, "If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention": the way to express your outrage is at the ballot box and phone calls to legislators like Mayor Carlos Gimenez who just today in the Miami Herald said, "I kept my promises".


Anonymous said...

Ok then why is the City of Miami going ahead with its ridiculous plan to asphalt and AstroTurf the Virginia Key marine stadium waterfront lands? That's acres and acres of AstroTurf where the City is supposedly building soccer fields after the Miami Boat Show leaves. What happens when the "crumbs" float out into the Zbay? What happens when our kids play on this toxic landscape?

Anonymous said...

The EPA spent $95,000,000 on furniture over the past ten years. That is $6,000 per employee. Maybe that is why the crumb fields study was not done.

Government agencies are too big, filled with incompetents who could not make it in the private sector.