Harmful Table Tennis Glues to be Banned

Following a decision on a "Board of Directors" meeting on 25th May the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), published the statement included below on harmful table tennis glues.

In summary, the ITTF plan to, for health reasons, ban all glues containing "harmful volatile compounds" (which seems to include many glues currently on the market) in all of their tournaments as of 1 September 2008 and recommend all players to stop using them as of immediately.

So, what does that mean in practice? Which exact glues are OK to use and which aren't? At the moment that seems to be a little unclear since no list of approved glues are yet available (the previous list of approved glues has, in fact, been withdrawn in full!) - but this vagueness should not be for long, one would hope. Follow further developments of this issue on the ITTF homepage.

But why is glue such a big issue with table tennis anyway? Readers unaware of the subtleties of the sport might find it interesting to know that freshly glued rubbers are known to give the ball more bounce and therefore a faster game. The reason behind this is simply that fresh glue emits gas (or "volatile compounds" as the phraselogy has it below) that enters the pores of the spongy backside of the rubber, which "pumps it up" giving it more bounce, much the same way as a football that is filled with air bounces better. With time the gas leaks out, the overpressure inside the rubber slowly disappears and the desired effect is normally gone after a few hours. This is why serious table tennis players are known to apply fresh glue before each new match.

Some years ago, the ITTF took the step to ban some of the most potent glues for health reasons and the glues that have been approved during recent years have not been quite as good at pumping up the rubber as the ones available earlier. The statement below is another step in the same direction and it now remains to be seen to what extent glue completely without harmful volatile substances will at all be capable of pumping up the rubber.

Adam Sharara, President of the ITTF.
Taking action against "harmful volatile compounds".
photo: www.ittf.com

Based on a majority decision taken by the Board of Directors of the ITTF, Glues containing harmful volatile compounds are no longer approved by the ITTF effective immediately. Although it is felt by the Board of Directors that the current levels of volatile compounds in Glues used to affix rubber coverings to the table tennis blade are in very small quantities and if applied correctly in a ventilated area provide no serious health risk to the players, it is felt, however, that long term use of such glues may have negative health effects. Therefore, as of immediate effect the ITTF informs all players to cease using glues containing volatile compounds (VCs).

It is, therefore, the responsibility of each player, or his/her parents in case of minors, to cease using glues containing VCs. Any player using such glues will be doing so at his/her own risk and the ITTF will not be held responsible of any consequences or ill effects resulting from the use of such glues.

All existing ITTF approvals of glues are WITHDRAWN effective immediately. This withdrawal applies to ALL glues currently on the market. The ITTF will cease to approve any type of glue effective immediately. However, the ITTF’s current “racket testing” programme and protocols will continue, which controls the amount of VCs in a racket in order to protect the health of the players.

The ITTF will publish and circulate widely a list of available glues that are free of volatile compounds. This list will be updated regularly on the ITTF’s website.

As of 1 January 2008 for ITTF Junior events, and as of 1 September 2008 for all other ITTF events, the ITTF will implement a new zero tolerance racket testing programme and protocol, using the “e-nez” and RAE instruments to ensure that all rackets used by players are VC free.

In addition, as of today, in the case that a proven severe health incident occurs and is confirmed by the medical authority recognized by the ITTF, then the ITTF would implement the new testing programme immediately (VC free) at that date (confirmation of the incident) and sanctions would be applied for failed tests. An exact legal announcement of this procedure will be made shortly by the ITTF.

The ITTF urges all parties involved, players, national associations, continental associations, manufacturers, and parents to act accordingly.

Adham Sharara