Letter: Here's a better option than artificial turf

Posted 10/3/21

To the editor:

Once again, the Barrington Times is calling for the town to install plastic grass at Victory Field. And once again, I must voice my opposition to this proposal. My perspective is …

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Letter: Here's a better option than artificial turf

Posted

To the editor:

Once again, the Barrington Times is calling for the town to install plastic grass at Victory Field. And once again, I must voice my opposition to this proposal. My perspective is that of a parent of a child who plays a town sport and as a former environmental professional. I would like to again share some relevant facts about synthetic turf.

• Synthetic turf is unregulated. It is subject to no health or safety standards nor is it regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as children’s products.[i]

• Synthetic turf is not recyclable[ii]. A typical field includes 600,000 pounds of material[iii]. When the plastic wears out every 5 to 10 years, it will go to a landfill. Over and over and over again.

• Synthetic turf made of crumb rubber contains lead, mercury, cadmium and other known carcinogens.[iv] The US EPA launched a multi-agency research effort in 2016 that is ongoing.[v]

• Alternatives to crumb rubber, like silica, cork, coconut infill, are unregulated. These natural materials still generate dust that children could inhale. The risks to human health are unknown.[vi]

• Synthetic turf is associated with increased rates of turf burns (skin abrasions). These abrasions are a risk factor for serious bacterial infections.[vii] 

• Synthetic turf is flammable and requires routine application of maintenance chemicals. To obtain the look and feel of grass, the plastic grass blades are softened with plasticizers. Additionally, stabilizers may be required to prevent photo-degradation from the sun, and flame retardants are applied to make the surface non-flammable. Sanitizers must be applied to keep fields clean and minimize infections.[viii] The grass blades still become brittle with time and exposure and blade fragments become part of the mix within the waste infill dust.

• Synthetic fields get hot. Really hot. High surface-level temperatures recorded on these fields compared to natural turf have been well-documented, and it requires monitoring and a plan for when it’s use must be restricted.[ix]

And if all this isn’t bad enough, studies that consider full lifecycle costs, including installation, maintenance, and disposal/replacement show the cost of synthetic turf is 2.5 times more than a natural grass field.[x] In my opinion, there is no safer surface for athletic play than organic natural grass. If our town would invest in state-of-the-art organic natural grass fields with the guidance of a turf grass expert and a long-term comprehensive field management plan with an eye towards adding more fields (Haines Park field expansion and College Lane could be options), the health of our children, athletes, our waterways, and our planet would be better protected. 

Jennifer Boylan

Barrington

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