Letter: Closer Look Needed for Artificial Turf

Letter: Closer Look Needed for Artificial Turf

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

The following letter was addressed to Dr. Gerald Boarman, Dr. Michael Reidy, and Bullis athletics leaders:

I am 20-plus year resident of Potomac living within a few miles of Bullis, and I have long admired your campus. I have many friends whose children have been enrolled in your school and were very pleased with your program. [Full disclosure: our three kids went to Montgomery County Public Schools, Potomac Elementary School through Churchill High School.]

I am writing to make sure you and your school leadership are aware of the issues associated with the artificial turf (AT) within your track along Falls Road. Given the importance of community and service to the Bullis philosophy, I hope you will take a closer look.

On one hand the greatest promoters of AT are the understandably eager coaches, athletes and parents who want playability, and the for-profit industry. On the other hand, critics of AT are not financially motivated. Rather we are an unpaid coalition of activists, scientists, grass field facility managers, athletes, coaches and parents. We are concerned about the financial and environmental sustainability of AT, and about the litany of health concerns for athletes of all ages, from toxicity and carcinogenicity, to turf toe, MRSA and heat exhaustion.

AT fields are plastic shag rugs fill shredded used tires for infill. By itself, that shag rug is significantly hotter than asphalt. Once ‘infilled’ with tens of thousands of shredded used tires (dubbed “crumb rubber” by the industry) heat factors climb higher. In addition, the heavy metals and carbon black found in the shredded tire are known carcinogens and toxins. Once shredded, then exposed to weather and to friction from use and grooming, these carcinogens aerosolize and become available in the surface and air of the fields. They are present in combinations referred never before studied — much less on children. The same is true of their impact on our environment with every warm day and every rainstorm washing the tire pellets into our waterways. Finally the failure rate of AT fields plus the often-undisclosed costs of maintenance, disposal and replacement, when extended out, belie the industry claims that their product is durable, long-lasting and maintenance free. Failure to maintain will void a contract, and maintenance according to contract is not free.

I urge you to do your own research and hope you will take a look at the following resources,

  • not-profit www.ehhi.org composed of independent scientists,

  • non-profit www.synturf.org tracking reports from around the country on AT,

  • our nascent website www.safehealthyplayingfields.org composed of volunteer activists, athletes and scientists concerned about AT.

… as well as these published and credible reports:

  • University of Arkansas comparing AT and real grass: http://turf.uark.edu/turfhelp/archives/021109.html specifically with temperature readings on a 94 degree day showing AT at 165 degrees.

  • Forbes Magazine on AT’s financial shell-game: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2014/09/28/how-taxpayers-get-fooled-on-the-cost-of-an-artificial-turf-field/ and AT failure rates, easily found with a google search as well.

  • WA State soccer coach compiling list of soccer goalies with cancers (of types that are quite unusual in young people): http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-cancer-list-keeps-growing-among-athletes-on-synthetic-turf-300099336.html. There are many reports about this list, all acknowledging that the evidence is anecdotal but the incidence among the population is wildly out of expected ranges.

  • EPA and CPSC have withdrawn their 2008 “safe-to-play” statements after they were challenged on the scientific rigor of their “‘study:”

  • EPA: http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/2013/12/23/epa-retracts-synthetic-turf-safety-assurances/ and more recently http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Critics-say-EPA-played-dual-role-in-recycled-tire-6094382.php

  • CPSC: http://www.synturf.org/cpsc.html and http://pallone.house.gov/press-release/pallone-questions-cpsc-dangers-crumb-rubber-gets-commitment-federal-efforts with sworn testimony of CPSC chair Kaye before a House committee hearing, that the 2008 statement was not in accordance with the findings of CPSC technical staff.

  • Rachel Maddow on the FIFA Women’s Cup in Canada which forced women to play on AT despite their lawsuit, and with photos of players’ legs after a single match on this pristine AT field: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/us-soccer-star-abby-wambach-playing-turf-nightmare. Other Maddow interviews with players from Canada’s cup are easily found on Google.

  • Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center: http://www.mountsinai.org/static_files/MSMC/Files/Patient%20Care/Children/Childrens%20Environmental%20Health%20Center/ArtTurf_Fact%20Sheet_final_2011.pdf urging caution with AT for children, and with multiple footnotes to other scientifically credible, peer-reviewed published studies.

  • And just last week: LA fields melting, with discussion that the fields were supposed to be OK to 180 degrees but failed at 140. What temperature do kids fail at? http://www.latimes.com/sports/highschool/la-sp-city-turf-fields-20150901-column.html.

  • In addition to the links above, facebook has a world of activity on the issue across the U.S., for example

https://www.facebook.com/groups/turfgrassforum/?fref=nf or https://www.facebook.com/laura.robsonjohnson?fref=nf

Diana E. Conway