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Interdepartmental meeting held on artificial turf pitches
     The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), Architectural Services Department (ArchSD), the Department of Health and the Government Laboratory convened an interdepartmental meeting on January 23 to discuss ways to follow up on the recent public concerns about health-related issues in regard to the third generation (3G) artificial turf pitches under the management of the LCSD.

     The artificial turf systems currently in use in the LCSD's 33 3G artificial turf pitches, including their rubber-filled materials, are in compliance with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)'s requirements. Similar products are commonly used throughout the world. The 3G artificial turf pitches managed by the LCSD are mainly designed and built by ArchSD, which requires all contractors to fully comply with the safety requirements of the FIFA Quality Programme for Football Turf - Handbook of Requirements on the materials used and works specifications. Contractors are also required to submit an assurance that the sports surface, together with its supporting layers, does not contain in its finished state any substance which is known to be toxic, mutagenic (may disturb genes), teratogenic (may disturb an embryo or fetus) or carcinogenic when in contact with the skin. Furthermore, no such substances may be released as vapour or dust during normal use. Main contractors/maintenance contractors are required to use products that have been certified by FIFA. Contractors are also required to submit certificates issued by independent accredited institutions on field performance upon the completion of installation.

     LCSD staff also keep up regular inspections of the conditions of the pitches. Regular turf maintenance is carried out including replenishment of infill materials as appropriate. In addition, cleaning of debris and trailing rubber granules is carried out by venue staff on a regular basis. If damage is found, the contractors from ArchSD or the LCSD will arrange for maintenance work or fill in the rubber granules as soon as possible. Both contractors are required to submit, in accordance with the contract requirements, relevant certificates of the materials used to demonstrate that the materials used are in compliance with safety requirements.

     Regarding recent reports on some laboratory test results claiming the finding of toxic material exceeding some kind of standards in some of the LCSD 3G artificial turf pitches or the rubber-filled materials, relevant government departments are very concerned and held an interdepartmental meeting to follow up.

     Based on different existing studies, overseas authorities including the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Toronto Public Health of Canada and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment have considered that available information does not show an elevated health risk from playing on artificial turf pitches. Relevant parts of the overseas reports are abstracted in the Annex.

     As there does not appear to be an internationally accepted testing standard for 3G artificial turf pitches, and the results of the tests are not based on FIFA's standards, it is difficult to make comparison. The LCSD is now seeking from the parties concerned a copy of the full report including laboratory test results, which should contain detailed information on sampling, testing parameters and methodology for further study by relevant government departments.

     To encourage users to adopt good hygiene practices, notices will be posted at the entrances or conspicuous locations of the LCSD's 3G pitches, reminding them not to eat or drink on the artificial turf, to remove infill granules and dust from clothes and shoes after playing on the artificial turf, to wash hands thoroughly after playing and to look after children and prevent them from putting infill granules into their mouths.

     The departments noted that some overseas authorities are conducting comprehensive studies on health-related concerns in regard to these turf systems. The departments will continue to keep in view the latest scientific knowledge and follow up closely with international authorities and relevant parties.
Ends/Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:20
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