Board: We didn't know (& we didn't find out)
The board has been "provided with no studies" to suggest that breathing cork dust may pose a hazard to health.
Corker worker's lung: studies
Now they have.
To assume cork dust is safe because nobody told you it isn't is the wrong way to proceed.
Yes, of course, in everyday life we all take fliers all the time; we can't pause to research every product a vendor persuades us to buy.
But elected members of the Board making a decision on behalf of the community are different. They need to do their homework, and they have been provided the necessary resources (which we as individuals lack) to acquire the testimony of independent researchers.
Independent researchers were not heard from in this case.
Instead, the superintendent and at least some members of the board wanted artificial turf from the get-go, and they established a process guaranteed to yield the desired result:
- The superintendent hand-picked committee members himself instead of drawing names from a hat, the policy his predecessor, to her great credit, established when committee selection processes were reformed during her tenure. Prior to that reform, district committees were often stacked; dissenters and skeptics were barred from participation. Under the new administration, we are back to the future.
- The superintendent instructed the committee that no minority report would be allowed.
- The board heard presentations from vendors of artificial turf. (Vendor materials posted here.)
- The board did not hear presentations from representatives of turfgrass (the term of art for natural grass).
It should go without saying that vendors do not "provide studies" suggesting potential health hazards of the product they are pitching. That is not their job. Vendors are vendors; vendors sell.
And, of course, the fact that a member of the board has not been "provided studies" of cork worker's lung (or respiratory disease in coir workers) does not mean studies do not exist. They do.
Nor does it mean that breathing cork and/or coconut-shell dust during heavy play can be simply assumed to be safe.
To assert that breathing cork and/or coconut-shell dust is safe because you haven't been "provided with" studies showing it isn't is analogous to asserting that smoking cigarettes is safe because you haven't been provided with studies showing that smoking cigarettes leads to lung cancer. (Which is precisely what skeptics did assert in the 1960s.) The conclusion doesn't follow from the premise.
Is cork dust safe to breathe when you're playing soccer or football?
Is coconut-shell dust safe?
Are cork dust and coconut dust safe for all student athletes, including those with asthma?
Grassrootsirvington doesn't know -- and neither does the board.
That is the problem.