We all appreciate the desire to have playgrounds available throughout the winter and recognize the reality of continued drought and water restrictions. However, the negative environmental and human health impacts of synthetic turf far outweigh the benefits.
Marin County has no less than eight sports fields that are currently being considered for plastic conversion. It’s a terrible turn in the wrong direction, especially when there are better solutions.
There are many reasons why synthetic turf sports fields should be banned.
Artificial turf contains carcinogenic per and polyfluorinated chemicals, known as PFAs. They are “forever chemicals” that do not break down in the environment, in wildlife, in the human body, or by any industrial means of disposal.
Even though a natural filler is used, the blades and plastic backing all contain PFAS. The Environmental Protection Agency is about to designate these chemicals as hazardous under superfund law.
The average artificial grass pitch is 80,000 square feet. Replacing existing natural grass with plastic creates a heat dome effect for surrounding trees and wildlife, as well as an ecological dead zone under the plastic.
The surface temperature of artificial grass is between 40 and 70 degrees warmer than grass in hot weather. A 100-degree day could produce surface temperatures of 170 degrees, reflecting heat back into the atmosphere, adding to global warming and increasing the risk of heat stroke for athletes.
At the University Hospitals Sports Medicine Institute in Ohio, a study of 26 high schools found that student-athletes were 58% more likely to sustain an injury while playing sports on artificial turf.
Injury rates were significantly higher for football, soccer and rugby athletes. Lower limb, upper limb and torso injuries also occurred with a higher incidence on artificial turf.
Artificial turf pitches need to be replaced approximately every eight years. Each square foot of artificial turf equals approximately half a pound of plastic: that’s 40,000 pounds of plastic going to landfill for each pitch. This equates to Marin helping landfill an additional 3.2 million plastic bottles for every artificial turf field every eight years.
Any claims of artificial turf recycling are dubious, as there are no turf recycling facilities in the United States. It is unlikely that they will ever be built due to the cost and complexity of this process. Being made of recycled plastic is not the same as being recyclable.
Unlike natural grass pitches, plastic pitches do not sequester carbon. Worse still, plastic turf adds to a community’s carbon footprint by releasing methane and ethylene gases as the plastic breaks down under sunlight, heat and friction.
There is an increased frequency of hot days above 90 degrees. With plastic turf, surface temperatures can reach over 150 degrees in summer, leading to calls to cool the surface with water before games and tournaments. Although the water consumption for artificial grass may be less than natural grass, it also requires water to clean it periodically.
The plastic blades and holder break down over time from heat, ultraviolet light, and agitation from use. This leads to the release of microplastics into the air and waterways.
Microplastics are extremely dangerous to fish and animals that eat or breathe them. Scientists find microplastics in human lungs, blood and placentas.
Incineration releases microplastics and PFAs into the air. Dumps are leaking. Some landfills now refuse to accept these huge piles of waste plastic grass. Unethical companies dump them in abandoned lots, wilderness areas and streams.
Better alternatives exist. It is possible to have a real turf pitch that can alleviate the problems currently facing our old playgrounds. in development.
Add a sand base or swales to keep fields from becoming waterlogged in winter and you have a safer playing field that will infiltrate rainwater and sequester carbon for a triple win, win, win “.
Don’t be fooled by the claims of the plastics industry as it pushes its toxic product into cities, schools and towns. For more detailed information, please visit: SafeHealthyPlayingFields.org.
Judy Schriebman, of San Rafael, is president of the Marin group at the Sierra Club.