The Rundown on Artificial Turf

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.

(1, 2)

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

too hot.

-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

reviewed. (3)

By Tara Marie Kotliar