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Soccer’s magic spray has been declared a health hazard in Germany

9-15 spray being used by a referee during the World Cup
Reuters/Sergio Perez
Don’t spray it.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

This year’s World Cup made breakout stars of Tim Howard’s grit and Neymar’s hair. It also introduced international audiences to 915 Fairplay spray, a shaving-cream-like foam ostentatiously used by referees to mark free-kick lines.

Invented by an Argentinian journalist, the spray was already in use in North America’s Major League Soccer and in professional leagues in South America, and it was quickly adopted by the European Championship League and the UK’s Premier League after the World Cup. Germany’s Bundesliga ordered 1,000 cans, which cost €12.95 ($16.44) each, and planned to start using them next month.

But last week, TÜV Rheinland, a German safety watchdog, announced that 915 was a health hazard. A study (German) commissioned by the German tabloid Bild found that the spray likely contained parabens, a group of chemicals that are commonly found in cosmetics and can disrupt normal hormone function, among other potential dangers (paywall). TÜV said that the spray, which has propane and butane, also needs a label indicating that it’s flammable. “In its present form, the product is not usable in Germany and the European Union,” a TÜV spokesman said.

The German Football Association (DFB) is looking into cheaper alternatives that would also pass safety muster, but Pablo Silva, 915’s inventor, said that would be illegal. ”Other vendors may not use our patent—neither the ingredients nor the principle of the invention itself,” Silva told Bild (German). “If the DFB uses the spray from another provider, we will complain about it.” He claimed the safety concerns were misplaced and said the labels were being reworked to comply with German regulations.

For his part, Jürgen Klopp, who coaches the Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund, said he wasn’t worried about the danger of hormonal changes in his players. ”I think the game itself is already sexy,” he said (German), “so the spray can’t make it more so.”

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