November 30th, 2012

we can't teach what we don't know
  • uu_mom

Mandatory artificial turf? #princegeorges #maryland #envrironment

PG404-13, sponsored by Senator Peters and Delegate Walker, will require (that's right REQUIRE) the Board of Education to install an artificial turf field at every high school in the county by 2018. Go to this site to see the text of the bill.

Here is the Fact Sheet about this proposal from the Sierra Club:

Artificial Turf: Health and Environmental Risks

Safe, Healthy Playing Fields Coalition Fact Sheet

The Safe, Healthy Playing Fields Coalition recommends pursuing with the highest priority the following goals for the 2013 legislative cycle:


1. Place an immediate moratorium on outdoor artificial turf (AT) installations.
2. End the use of tire crumb on both ‘in process’ and existing AT fields.
3. Identify and use safe, healthy infill alternatives.
4. Promote high quality natural surface fields with best practices from below the ground (including drainage and soil engineering as necessary) to appropriate durable grass type and maintenance.


1. End the use of tire crumb rubber infill; replace w/healthy, natural alternatives
The risk to our health and the environment has been ignored far too long. Montgomery and Fairfax Counties are rapidly moving to install artificial, aka synthetic, turf fields at high schools and at other complexes. Synthetic turf is being touted by its manufacturers as a superior product to natural grass fields because of its durability, even though very few natural grass fields have been constructed properly to withstand long hours of play, or had the resources committed to them to make them competitive with the artificial alternative.

Consumers should be made aware of the following serious drawbacks to synthetic turf fields: Synthetic turf is a big rug made from plastic. Plastic is made from hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are volatile compounds meaning they evaporate quickly in the presence of sunlight and heat. Even though they exist in solid form, they still off-gas to the atmosphere – think of the new car smell on a hot day.

To obtain the look and feel of grass, the plastic grass blades must be softened with plasticizers. Additionally, they must be stabilized to prevent photo-degradation from the sun and made non-flammable by the addition of flame retardants. The grass blades still become brittle with time and exposure and blade fragments become part of the mix within the crumb rubber dust.

The spongy surface between the grass blades is typically crumb rubber made by pulverizing vehicle tires. Tires are managed as hazardous waste, but when pulverized lose all regulatory oversight.

Crumb rubber contains dozens of complex hydrocarbons, heavy metals, carbon black and secret ingredients that are combined to create vulcanized rubber. The tire crumb, once pulverized to bird-shot-sized granules, continues to break down through the friction of play and exposure to the unrelenting ultra violet light from the sun. As the crumb rubber is worn down to dust, every component and molecule within it can become airborne to interact with the natural and human environment. Think human inhalation and water transport.

On clear warm days, synthetic turf fields get superheated to temperatures from 120o to 180o F. In this quite common scenario, the gasses rising from the field adsorb, or grab, the macroscopic particles of carbon black (a known carcinogen) and create deep lung inhalation exposures for athletes. The combination of the gasses and carbon black together is 10- to 20-times more toxic than the substances by themselves.

Storm water run-off from synthetic turf fields has been found to contain zinc. Zinc is poisonous to aquatic life forms such as daphne, at the bottom of the food chain.

Synthetic turf contains plasticizers, fire retardants and stabilizers. Crumb rubber contains at least 60 complicated compounds. Small concentrations of these compounds mimic the hormones that regulate bodily functions and the changes they produce may not show up for decades. Fetuses are highly susceptible to the small exposures that their pregnant mothers may encounter, perhaps years earlier.

Toxicologists that study these compounds have warned consumers for decades not to microwave in plastics. Why then would children be allowed to participate in grueling physical activity in an environment similar to a microwave oven heating plastics?
The complex compounds in synthetic turf fields need to have a quantitative risk analysis performed by the Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether they have short-term and long-term health effects on the human body.

Synthetic turf fields currently have no regulations, no monitoring, no standards and they are ALL children’s products.
These fields are brutal to players’ bodies. After all, they are just rugs placed on compacted rock. Synthetic turf is no longer used by professional baseball due to player injuries and complaints.

The Safe, Healthy Playing Fields Coalition invites you to join the effort to request public officials act swiftly to take these recommended actions to address these issues and ensure the health and safety of all who recreate on, or exist in the presence of, artificial turf fields. If you spend one hour with the resources listed you will surely agree – the time to act is long overdue.

Whether we and our politicians know it or not, nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do. Wendell Berry

Additional resources and testimony citations:


ABC News report: “What's the Deal with Synthetic Turf Particles? (artificial soccer / football sports fields)”  A summary of the toxicity of turf fields issue is summarized in this.

The TRUTH: About Synthetic Sports Turf – artificial SBR soccer / football fields:  (Oct 28, 2009, 3:41 min) which conveys these areas of concern in public settings:
Virulent bacterial infection, including MRSA staph
o Ingestion and inhalation
o Extreme temperatures
o Tire crumb contains 5 known carcinogens & lead in unregulated & unquantifiable amounts according to U Conn Health Center

A Question of Ingestion - Synthetic Artificial Turf in San Francisco, CA - (montage) / asthma” 

Dr. David Brown, ShD toxicologist, is one of the few qualified US scientists, who is NOT paid by the artificial turf industry, who conducted primary toxicology research on the tire crumb fields. A condensed interview of him explaining the unaddressed toxicity concerns surrounding the fields is found here:

PEER: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
News releases:
o Artificial Turf Field Heat Dangers Require Safeguards: Synthetic Turf Temps as High as 200 Degrees Pose Particular Peril to Children (Sept 6, 2012)
o Lead Limits Needed on Tire Crumb Playgrounds: CPSC Ruling on Artificial Play-Areas as Children’s Products Sought (July 12, 2012)

The PEER press releases link to a number of important recent studies including two on lead and particulates in artificial turf: Evaluating and Regulating Lead in Synthetic Turf by Gregory Van Ulirsch et al. Environmental Health Perspectives (2010 October; 118(10): 1345–1349.) 
An Evaluation of Potential Exposures to Lead and Other Metals as the Result of Aerosolized Particulate Matter from Artificial Turf Playing Fields Submitted to: Alan Stern, Dr.P.H. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Submitted by: Stuart L. Shalat, Sc.D. (July 14, 2011)  NOTE: THIS IS S VERY IMPORTANT STUDY!

There is also a PEER press release on heat effects: Penn State’s Center for Sports Surface Research: Synthetic Turf Heat Evaluation – Progress Report; January 2012 (Summary: heat high on plastic as well as tire crumb - no “magic bullet” to cool off the fields made with these materials).

Articles: Articles and publications raising high concern about artificial turf and/or tire crumb:
o  Environ. Sci. Technol. Feb 21, 2012, 46, 3326−3334; Automobile Tires a Potential Source of Highly Carcinogenic Dibenzopyrenes to the Environment; Ioannis Sadiktsis, Christoffer Bergvall, Christer Johansson, ö, ˜ and Roger Westerholm õ Sweden “…Through the release of PAHs from stockpiled scrap tires, 41 PAH emissions from pyrolysis of scrap tires 42 or leaching of PAHs from recycled tire rubber material, 30 tires are a source of environmental pollution of PAHs throughout their entire lifecycle.”
Hazardous organic chemicals in rubber recycled tire playgrounds and pavers Review Article ; Chemosphere, 22 August 2012; Maria Llompart, Lucia Sanchez-Prado, J. Pablo Lamas, Carmen Garcia-Jares, Enrique Roca, Thierry Dagnac;

Abstract: In this study, the presence of hazardous organic chemicals in surfaces containing recycled rubber tires is investigated. …..The analysis confirmed the presence of a large number of hazardous substances including PAHs, phthalates, antioxidants (e.g. BHT, phenols), benzothiazole and derivatives, among other chemicals. The study evidences the high content of toxic chemicals in these recycled materials. The concentration of PAHs in the commercial pavers was extremely high, reaching values up to 1%. In addition, SPME studies of the vapor phase above the samples confirm the volatilization of many of those organic compounds. Uses of recycled rubber tires, especially those targeting play areas and other facilities for children, should be a matter of regulatory concern.

Sierra Club report on Safe, Healthy Play Fields Coalition (March 26, 2009);
Environment and Human Health, Inc., 2007 report: Artificial Turf: Exposures to Ground Up Rubber Tires – Athletic Fields, Playgrounds, Garden Mulch

The precautionary principle: "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action." - Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle, January 1998.


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