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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Dec 10;116(50):25156-25161. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1909886116. Epub 2019 Nov 25.

Artificial turf infill associated with systematic toxicity in an amniote vertebrate.

Author information

Department of Chemical Engineering, McGill University, Montréal, QC H3A 0C5, Canada.
Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montréal, QC H3A 0C4, Canada.
Environmental Health Science and Research Bureau, Health Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9, Canada.
Department of Chemistry, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7, Canada.
Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montréal, QC H3A 0C4, Canada;
Department of Chemical Engineering, McGill University, Montréal, QC H3A 0C5, Canada;


Artificial athletic turf containing crumb rubber (CR) from shredded tires is a growing environmental and public health concern. However, the associated health risk is unknown due to the lack of toxicity data for higher vertebrates. We evaluated the toxic effects of CR in a developing amniote vertebrate embryo. CR water leachate was administered to fertilized chicken eggs via different exposure routes, i.e., coating by dropping CR leachate on the eggshell; dipping the eggs into CR leachate; microinjecting CR leachate into the air cell or yolk. After 3 or 7 d of incubation, embryonic morphology, organ development, physiology, and molecular pathways were measured. The results showed that CR leachate injected into the yolk caused mild to severe developmental malformations, reduced growth, and specifically impaired the development of the brain and cardiovascular system, which were associated with gene dysregulation in aryl hydrocarbon receptor, stress-response, and thyroid hormone pathways. The observed systematic effects were probably due to a complex mixture of toxic chemicals leaching from CR, such as metals (e.g., Zn, Cr, Pb) and amines (e.g., benzothiazole). This study points to a need to closely examine the potential regulation of the use of CR on playgrounds and artificial fields.


amniote model; artificial turf; embryonic development; environmental health; tire crumb


Conflict of interest statement

Competing interest statement: The authors declare no competing interest.

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