The main question is whether artificial grass and playing surfaces are responsible alternatives to natural grass.

Parents in the public school district in Washington, D.C. are concerned about some possible negative health effects associated with artificial turf used for sports surfaces. In response to these concerns, the city had one of it’s engineers on hand at a town hall meeting, where parents could address their concerns.

The parents who attended the meeting were primarily concerned about reports that recently surfaced regarding links between crumb rubber artificial sports turf and a variety of health issues, including bacteria, early puberty and cancer.

One of the campuses in the district is having its soccer field replaced after the field failed a safety test over the summer. The new field will be artificial grass, which has drawn the concern of these parents. The engineer was hired by the city to test these fields, and attempted to assuage concerns of the parents at the meeting.

To understand the health risks that may or may not be associated with artificial grass, it is important to know how turf  is made.

Artificial Grass Features Three Main Parts:

  • A backing material that holds individual blades of artificial grass together
  • The plastic blades of artificial grass
  • The infill (tiny black rubber crumbs), which helps to provide additional support to the plastic blades of grass

The backing and the plastic grass are not a concern, it is the infill that can be problematic. Usually the infill is made from ground up rubber tires, and tires can be toxic.

Modern tires are made using a mixture of natural and synthetic rubber, carbon black (a type of material made out of petroleum) and from four to 10 gallons of other petroleum products. They also feature metals, such as lead (a neurotoxin), cadmium and zinc. Some of the other chemicals found in tires are known carcinogens, such as dibenzopyrenes. These do not account for any chemicals the tires were exposed to during their use, which can be absorbed into the carbon black.

These chemicals can affect children who play on the fields. Which points to the answer towards no, artificial playing surfaces like turf are not responsible alternatives to natural grass.

The particles in the infill can break down over time, making it easier for them to be suspended in the air and inhaled during playtime. As of right now, there are conflicting reports as to whether these particles can (or are likely to) cause illness, but they certainly can get into a child’s body.

Finally, even though artificial turf does not need to be mowed, some weeds can begin to grow through it. This means weedkillers need to be applied, and those toxins can also be trapped into the infill. It is, therefore, a myth that these surfaces do not require any maintenance.

Ultimately, no artificial playing surface is going to be as safe as natural grass. Our team can help you have a durable, natural grass surface at your facility while saving costs and being much more environmentally friendly too. Contact us to find our more.

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