As MLB Spring Training gets underway, you can hear the crack of the bat and see the fastballs flying. The sights and sounds of the game are a sign that the weather is changing, and it’s going to be time to PLAY BALL soon.
However, it might be something that your senses don’t necessarily detect that could be harmful to you and everyone else that’s planning on attending a baseball game this summer. And that goes without saying the players, managers, and stadium employees that are there day in, and day out.
In a developing story, cancer-linked forever chemicals have been found in samples from Philadelphia’s Veteran Stadium, the park that previously hosted the city’s MLB and NFL teams. Experts have theorized the toxins could have played a role in the brain cancer deaths of six former professional baseball players.
Four samples of the turf were obtained by local reporters and tested for toxins. Scientists found the turf had detectable levels of 16 PFAS. These are known as forever chemicals.
Veterans Stadium opened in Philadelphia on the corner of Broad Street and Pattison Ave in 1971, and it served as home to MLB’s Phillies and the NFL’s Eagles until the early 2000s. It was demolished in March 2004, after being replaced by the adjacent Citizens Bank Park for baseball and Lincoln Financial Field for football.
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Forever chemical or PFAS (short for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are a large group of chemicals that make certain products nonstick or stain resistant. Long-term exposure to these materials has been linked to multiple cancers, kidney issues, and more.
Samples from The Vet were tested by scientists at Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories Environmental Testing in Central Pennsylvania, and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The field samples in question were used from 1971 to 1981.
For years, Philadelphia, as well as other MLB cities, employed multi-purpose venues that became known informally as ‘cookie-cutter stadiums.’
These parks were designed to hold multiple different events, and they almost always used AstroTurf, which was a synthetic grass substitute produced by Monsanto. Known for its easy maintenance and ability to weather any storm, fake grass became – at least for a time – more popular than the real thing.
Unfortunately, AstroTurf and similar substitutes were harder, and could easily cause injuries. And it got extremely hot. Temperatures were typically 10 degrees or higher on the carpet during summer gameplay. It was very common to see the heat radiating from the turf, and players have even reported smelling a hot chemical smell on the field. As if the chemicals in Monsanto’s magical meadow were literally cooking.
Currently, there are no definitive links between the toxins in the turf and the cases of cancer. However, physicians still warn that long-term exposure to PFAS has been tied to a multitude of potential health conditions.
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