The Rundown on Artificial Turf
Artificial turf sports fields and play areas were originally created to prevent head
injuries, but there have been growing concerns regarding the negative health effects
associated with exposure to crumb rubber, as well as the artificial turf fields. Our
take is that artificial turf is not cool, it is hot - deadly hot - and toxic!
- Artificial turf can reach dangerous temperatures on hot days. This can cause
heat stress, leading to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Small particles with toxic metals and chemicals are suspended into the air
and then breathed in by children. Crumb rubber is made of shredded, ground
tires. Tires are derived from a mixture of rubber, petroleum products, carbon
black (material produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum
products), and heavy metals. If made from old tires, any chemical that the
tires were exposed to during their lifetime can be absorbed into the tire
material as well.
- The plastic blades of synthetic grass are not safe either. They can release
lead, cadmium, zinc, PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), and VOCs
(compounds that easily become vapors or gases).
- Flame-retardants are commonly applied to artificial turf to keep fields sterile
and pesticides are often applied to keep weeds from growing.
- All these dangerous chemicals will break down due to use over time and high
temperatures. They will ultimately end up in our watershed and our air.
When it comes to our children, our public health, and our environment, we should
be prudent in reducing unnecessary toxic exposure. If we speak up in our towns and
our schools, we can work towards finding a safe solution.
Here is what we can do now, while working on policies:
-Be extremely cautious and do not use artificial turf if playing conditions are
-Make washing hands and arms with soap and water a routine after playing
on all turf.
-Small turf pieces often cling to clothes and shoes, so remove these items, and
turn clothing inside out to prevent further contamination during transport.
Showering and changing into clean clothes is best when possible.
The EPA has been working on a Federal Research Action Plan on Recycled Tire
Crumb Used on Playing Fields and Playgrounds to study key environmental and
human health questions. The aim is to release the draft report for public comment
shortly (Fall, 2018) and the report will be finalized after the public comments are
By Tara Marie Kotliar