The Problem with Artificial Turf

Have you ever stood on artificial turf and wondered exactly what was under your (or your child’s) feet? I remember returning to my childhood pool a few years ago. They had replaced much of the seating areas with artificial turf. In the summer sun this material burned our feet and smelled funny. I remembered reading about some of the health concerns surrounding artificial turf and thought I’d get in touch with an organization I follow called No Toxic Turf to find out more. Our interview is below. Please feel free to post a question and we can try to get it answered!

1. What are the health concerns with artificial turf? Why should parents be concerned?

Many toxins and carcinogens are released from the tire waste crumb rubber infill of artificial turf and then inhaled and ingested. This includes arsenic, lead, chromium, PAHs, styrene, endocrine disrupters and more.The younger the children the more vulnerable to exposure. Their brains and nervous systems are developing, and biologically they are not able to break down chemicals. Children also breathe more quickly (therefore inhaling more); have more ground contact; and are more likely to ingest the minuscule black ‘pellets’ of crumb rubber.

2. Are more communities putting in artificial turf, and why?

Many communities are putting in artificial turf, claiming it is easier to maintain than grass (not true) and either ignoring or denying the health and environmental hazards. Why? That is hard to understand. Ignorance is one answer. The strong marketing of artificial turf companies is another answer.

3. How can parents fight the installation of artificial turf in their communities?

Parents should speak up on behalf of their children – to school boards, to politicians, to their Public Health Departments, to reporters and journalists, and to their friends and neighbors.

4. What can parent do in communities where there is already turf in place?

That is a challenge. The truth is that artificial turf needs to be replaced after 8 to 10 years on average, which is very cumbersome and expensive. It is illegal to dump artificial turf in landfills and in the ocean because of its toxicity. (So why is it ok for children to play on it, you may ask?). Many artificial turf fields are now being converted back to natural grass. (Most athletes hate the stuff.) Parents must keep protesting and insisting on safe, natural surfaces for their children to play on. We believe that eventually all artificial turf will be banned.

5. For more information, please look at NoToxicTurf.ca.

And Synturf.org.

Thanks to No Toxic Turf for these answers. Please share this post far and wide. I had no idea that artificial turf was deemed too toxic for landfills and the ocean– but it is allowed under our child’s feet and noses. This fact alone is very alarming. In addition, there is some evidence that turf can cause more injury to athletes than grass.

The Center for Environmental Health has tested many turf fields for lead in California and this informative video.  They offer a detailed map of those fields and steps for avoiding lead exposure from old fields. You can even send in a sample from your local field to test for lead FOR FREE. It is easy!

Does your community have artificial turf? Do you have any questions for our guest?

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