Chemicals affecting soccer players ‘unlikely,’ doctor says

Thu, 12/01/2005 - 4:14pm
By: John Munford

A physician specializing in pediatric health issues has determined it is unlikely that the symptoms affecting about four soccer players in the past two years are related to exposure to chemicals used to treat Peachtree City’s soccer fields.

Dr. Robert J. Geller, chief of pediatrics for the Grady Health System and medical director of the Georgia Poison Center, has reviewed the types of chemicals sprayed on city fields, and each has a low toxicity profile. That means a normal child would have to be exposed to a large dose of the chemical to be affected, and a “susceptible” child — one who would be more sensitive to a certain chemical — would have to be exposed to a moderate dose to be affected, Geller said.

“I’m not saying it’s not possible. It’s just unlikely,” Geller told The Citizen Wednesday morning.

Geller has determined the risk of having an adverse reaction from the herbicides and fertilizers as being “quite low,” he said, “but I can’t say it’s zero.”

On three occasions, players developed respiratory problems after playing on the field. In the most recent case, an 11-year-old boy suffered blurred vision while playing on a field that was sprayed five days before the soccer season ended.

Geller said he hasn’t come across firm data on how many Peachtree City soccer players have reported certain symptoms and whether the timing of the symptoms can be tied to recent chemical treatments of the fields. It could be that the symptoms were related to allergies instead of the chemicals, he added.

Geller recommends waiting 24 to 48 hours at most after a soccer field is sprayed before resuming usage. Most chemicals, he noted, are dried off after 24 hours.

The key is making sure the chemicals are applied appropriately, he said.

Some soccer parents have expressed concern about an incident almost two years ago when two soccer players developed respiratory problems after noticing a green dye on their skin and clothes that was used to mark where the chemicals were sprayed. Dr. Geller said that most turf chemicals have a hard time absorbing into the body via the skin, but a player is more likely to ingest the chemicals should they come into contact with the mouth.

In terms of controlling weeds with chemicals, Geller suggested that the city could benefit from lowering the number of chemicals sprayed to reduce the weed population somewhat and maintain an acceptable level of field density ... and at the same time perhaps “cut the exposure by half.”

Geller also warned against the reliance on organic compounds for weed and pest control, because they can cause adverse reactions as well.

“Arsenic is a natural compound ... but it’s poisonous,” he noted.

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Submitted by Reality Bytes on Thu, 12/01/2005 - 9:24pm.

That's why cows don't play soccer.


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