Saturday, February 9, 2008

Community Alert on Synthetic Turf

Community Alert on Synthetic Turf

Information is becoming available to the public at large regarding the very real concerns people have about the potential harmful affects of artificial turf. They are summarized below. Most of the information that is gathered here has been taken from studies conducted by both the Environment and Human Health, Inc (EHHI) and also by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

* Crumb rubber is made of ground-up, used tires that contain hazardous substances including the metals arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, zinc and other chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and phthalates. Recent studies conducted in Connecticut and New York have confirmed the presence of these substances on existing fields at levels exceeding current allowable NYS Department of Environmental Conservation limits.

* Health effects of these chemicals include immune system damage, cancer and endocrine disruption which is particularly more likely to occur during times of rapid cell proliferation (puberty). These substances enter the body via rapid breathing that takes place during exercise and also via the inhalation of this mix of chemical and metal laden dust that is kicked up during routine play. These rubber pellets have also been found in children’s clothes, mouth guards and in their cleats, providing for more portals of entry.

* Since fields are constructed of up to 10 tons of crumb rubber from used tires and since these same tires are prohibited from being disposed of in landfills and oceans, it is safe to say we are forcing these children to play on environmental waste.

* The NY State Assembly (A09503) and the NY State Senate (S6531) have introduced Bills calling for a 6-month moratorium on the installation of artificial turf fields that use crumb rubber as filler due to the unknown and potentially harmful effects that this substance has on human and environmental health. Precedent is being set by NYS, and here in Evesham, our elected officials seem to be dismissive about these very real health issues.

* It is known that artificial turf causes an increase in player injury due to “turf burns”. Turf has been implicated to be a breeding ground for MRSA, a virulent strain of Staphylococcus bacterium. Turf burns + MRSA = disaster. Due to this particular issue, turf needs to be cleaned with harsh and expensive chemicals that also have harmful effects.

* Temperatures on artificial fields have been documented to be upwards of 86.5 degrees (F) hotter than natural grass fields under identical conditions. For example, at one location, when the natural grass surface temperature was 93.5 degrees (F), the measured artificial field temperature was 180 degrees (F). This presents a plethora of problems such as outgassing which is the release of noxious fumes from the heated up crumb rubber. Serious injuries including heat exhaustion and foot burns have been documented. These incredibly high temperatures necessitate that the fields be hosed down prior to, during, and after each game of play. Does the requirement to have a field-watering system negate some of the projected cost-savings of artificial turf?

Due to the limited testing synthetic turf has been subjected to and because there are so many levels of concern regarding it’s safety on the population that uses this product (children), it is incumbent upon our township officials to act as good stewards of the environment and also as protectors of the health and safety of our community by halting the installation of artificial turf fields in Evesham until further studies prove it’s safety.