Ex-Phillies Got Brain Cancer After Playing on Artificial Turf

'Philadelphia Inquirer' digs into the cluster of rare glioblastoma cases
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2023 1:53 PM CST
Ex-Phillies Got Brain Cancer After Playing on Artificial Turf
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw makes a famous leap into the air after he struck out Kansas City's Willie Wilson to win the 1980 World Series. McGraw is one of six Phillies who have died of a rare brain cancer.   (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File)

The Philadelphia Inquirer is out with a jarring story about that city's baseball team: The newspaper reports that six former members of the Philadelphia Phillies died of the rare brain cancer glioblastoma, and one thing they had in common is that they played on artificial turf at the since-demolished Veterans Stadium. When the newspaper ran tests on four souvenir samples it obtained of the turf, which was made by Monsanto, the results revealed the presence of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—commonly known as "forever chemicals." That the samples tested positive isn't a huge surprise because scientists have known for a few years that PFAS were in artificial turf. However, no studies have yet been conducted to determine whether athletes' exposure can lead to cancer, write Barbara Laker and David Gambacorta.

The newspaper launched its investigation after the death last year of former pitcher David West. More fans will recognize the name of another ex-pitcher, Tug McGraw. "The rate of brain cancer among Phillies who played at the Vet between 1971 and 2003 is about three times the average rate among adult men," says the story. Monsanto is now owned by Bayer, which declined to comment. The team expressed "frustration and sadness" over the deaths, but it says it has consulted brain cancer experts who said no evidence of a link exists. Still, "that is such a high number that it is worrying," says Jacob de Boer, an environmental chemist at the Free University of Amsterdam. "In some cases it's better not to wait for the 100% proof." Read the full story for much more, including that five MLB teams and 16 NFL teams still play on artificial turf. (Or check out other stories on forever chemicals.)

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