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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Parks & Rec. Dept. Affirms Continued Turf Field Use

The Westport Parks and Recreation Department said today that continued use of synthetic athletic turf fields in Westport is warranted despite concerns expressed by some that they may adversely affect the health of users.

In a statement, Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy said: “The Westport Parks and Recreation Department continues to support the installation of synthetic athletic turf as a safe alternative to grass playing fields.

“While we are constantly reviewing all available information on this subject we have seen no evidence that playing on these fields is unsafe. There is ample evidence that these fields perform well, use fewer pesticides and improve playing conditions and athlete safety over the current over-used grass fields.”

McCarthy said the department encourages continued testing of these products to assure the safety of users of these playing fields.

“To date, while several studies have identified chemical compounds associated with the rubber infill materials used in this current technology, not one of the studies has concluded that the presence of those compounds pose a danger to human health or the environment,” he said.

McCarthy cited a statement issued by an official of the state Department of Public Health following the latest reports of testing done by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s chemical laboratory.

The official, Brian Toal supervising epidemiologist, Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program, Environmental Health Division, wrote:

“We have reviewed a great deal of the literature on potential human health risk from rubber used in synthetic turf fields. We have not seen any information that would lead us to recommend against installing such fields based on potential chemical exposures or health risk from those using the fields.

“At this time we do not plan on issuing a recommendation against installation of synthetic turf fields. It is important to note we do not have authority to issue a moratorium. If we felt there was a serious health risk from such fields we would work with the Connecticut Department of Education and DEP to issue a recommendation to schools. At this point no such action is planned by DPH.”

McCarthy noted that the current generation of synthetic athletic turf has been in use for approximately 8 to10 years.

There are currently more than 1,000 installations nationwide and dozens in the local area. Current installations are in place in nearly every state, in professional stadiums, college campuses (including state universities and colleges), urban and suburban parks and municipal schools and recreation facilities both indoors and outdoors, he said.

The Parks and Recreation Department is not aware of any state or federal agency which has banned, restricted or warned against the use of this product, McCarthy said.

“The Parks and Recreation Department will continue to review information and public health statements regarding the use of synthetic athletic turf as we go forward,” he said.


Posted 09/04/07 at 08:47 PM  Permalink


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This coverage seems self-serving. Last week, in a startling press conference, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal answered a respected environmental group’s call for more testing of the turf infill with the announcement that he intended to help secure $200,000 to that end. While the AG did not advocate panic, he suggested towns take reasonable precautions when using existing fields. None of this is mentioned in your article—it’s just “hey, we don’t know enough about the fields, so let’s keep on using them.”

What’s most alarming is that this article does not cover the cautionary health assessment presented by respected toxicologist David Brown at that press conference, nor the fact that the Ag Station tests showed four polycyclic aromatic carbons were released by turf infill under normal field conditions. How bioavailable are these compounds, some of which are carcinogenic? The zinc released by crumb rubber can hurt plants, for heaven’s sakes. Who knows what it does to kids? Who knows how long it takes the lead and cadmium in the particles to leach into nearby drinking wells?

A lot of money and energy (and good faith) have gone into installing these fields, and what we’re hearing from public officials is exactly what can be expected. (Look how long it’s taken to took for lead-painted toys and bisphenol baby bottles to get the negative attention they deserve.)

These are our children. We need to be precautionary. Our role, as parents and voters, is to say, “Be careful.” Consider limited play on the existing fields by children whose parents are made aware of the risks.  A moratorium on the installation of new fields until more testing is done. And consideration of what can be done if, later, the town decides the fields should go.

Posted by Stacy Prince on September 05, 2007 at 12:53 PM | #

The evidence that these fields are safe is flawed and if you read the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s report you will see there are reasons to be concerned.

You can find the Ag Station’s report and the EHHI report, which includes a discussion of potential health and environmental risks and recommendations at www.ehhi.org/turf.

Posted by Patricia Taylor on September 05, 2007 at 01:54 PM | #

To quote from EHHI’s webpage:

“There has not been enough testing or public health evaluation studies on synthetic turf fields to determine whether some of them pose a health problem for children. There are many important public health questions that should be answered before these expensive synthetic fields are purchased and installed.”

So based on a lack of information, one group is right and another is wrong?  My own guess is that a lot more children will be harmed by tires on automobiles than on turf fields.

Posted by Dan Lasley on September 05, 2007 at 04:06 PM | #

Dan, your comment about children being harmed by tires on automobiles is an interesting point.

In fact, used tires are recognized as a health hazard by the federal government and states control where they can be dumped.  38 states ban whole tires from landfills, 35 states allow shredded tires to be placed in landfills, 11 states ban all tires from landfills, 17 states allow processed tires to be placed into monofills, 8 states have no restrictions on placing scrap tires in landfills.

Crumb rubber is from used tires, in large part.  Allowing our kids to play on crumb rubber is not a necessity and may be exposing them to health risks.  We in wealthier communities don’t let our kids play in landfills where used tires are disposed or in parking lots where automobile tires are sitting hot on the pavement.

We need to be informed and to figure out what risks we are willing to take, as a community, with our children’s health and with the health of our land and water.

Did you read David Brown’s report and the recommendations he made?  A state agency, the Connecticut Ag Station identified four chemicals outgassing and four leaching that are chemicals of serious concern.

The four VOC compounds the CT Agricultural Experiment Station identified are:

Benzothiazole,  Butylated hydroxyanizole (BHA),  n-hexadecane,  and 4 (t-octyl) phenol

In addition, these elements leached into water from crumb rubber:

Zinc,  Selenium,  Lead,  Cadmium

I am not willing to expose my children to these chemicals while they are being studied by the state of Connecticut.  I’m proud that Connecticut’s Attorney General is taking a precautionary lead on this issue.  He is being protective and responsible.

I know that the parents in our community who paid for these fields and supported their installation in Westport are good parents who are well-intentioned and concerned about the well-being of their children.  I know that they are concerned about providing a safe play surface for their kids and that they want clean drinking water and a clean Long Island Sound.

I trust, in the long run, that the state will provide oversight and guidance and give the towns, schools, and parents guidelines regarding crumb rubber infill and children’s exposure to it.

While we wait for this testing to be done, for these VOCs, airborne particulate matter, and leaching elements to be captured, measured, and reported upon, our children here in Westport will be playing on these fields.  Ground water will flow from under these fields into streams, wells, and the Sound.

This information is new information, gathered and assessed by a Connecticut agency and by a Connecticut advocacy group.  As a parent, I am grateful and proud that it is Connecticut parents, scientists and government taking the lead and being protective of our children, our land, and our water.

You have the option to act upon it now or to wait until all the field tests, and the harm, has been done.

What will you choose to do?  Will you wait as children play upon these fields or will you act, in precaution?

Posted by Patricia Taylor on September 05, 2007 at 04:34 PM | #

Actually, I’ll be running on those turf fields several hours each weekend…

I’ve been known to drink tap water too.

Posted by Dan Lasley on September 05, 2007 at 04:50 PM | #

Adults still sunbathe, ignoring the risk of skin cancer.
Adults still smoke, despite the known risk of lung cancer.
Adults still run on artificial turf which is being investigated for potential health hazards.

But our children are the responsibility of adults whose duty it is to be as informed as possible and keep them out of harm’s way. Let’s be cautious.

I vote for stopping all of our children from playing on “crumb rubber” during the school day until further testing is completed.

Posted by Carol Mueller on September 05, 2007 at 06:06 PM | #

I don’t know much about crumb rubber, but I do know some history.  When the Houston Astrodome opened in 1965, the outfielders immediately started losing fly balls in the glare of the dome during day games.  So they quickly painted the dome to kill the glare, which also killed photosynthesis and the grass in the outfield. That’s when they invented AstroTurf, which was quickly embraced by field sports and installed all over the country.  The benefits of AstroTurf (and imitators) were listed as: low maintenance (no watering, cutting, fertilizing); and a decrease in knee injuries (caused by spikes sticking in grass).  Well, as the years passed and the stats piled up, the first generation of artificial turf proved to be less than cost-effective (it had to be replaced every 4-5 years; and new injuries such as “turf toe,” skin burns and an increase in concussions and bone fractures (most first-generation turf was glued to asphalt or cement, with minimal padding) replaced the knee injuries (which didn’t really go away).  By the 1990s, most college and pro stadiums were reverting to natural grass and new technologies had been developed to keep it neat, trim and attractive.  I raise this because my first thought when this new generation of synthetic turf fields appeared a few years back I wonder if history might be repeating itself.

Posted by Andy Yemma on September 05, 2007 at 06:37 PM | #

The new generation of turf is specifically designed to reduce/eliminate these sorts of injuries.

My kids and I plan to use them to ensure our continued good health.

Posted by Jeff Kiker on September 06, 2007 at 01:18 AM | #

The EHHI report, by Dr. Brown, on the CT Ag Station Study (both of which can be found at www.ehhi.org/turf) talks about injury reduction as a health benefit of the new fields:

“The safety information about the new synthetic fields has mainly focused on the health benefits from the reduction of joint injuries due to the use of the rubber tire crumbs in the new fields. Public health analysis of the health risks from human exposures from the rubber crumbs has not been adequately addressed up to this point.

Research finds that the new synthetic fields are surfaced with a product called “in-fill” that is made from recycled tires. This material is referred to as “tire crumbs” and constitutes the primary playing surface. We estimate these crumbs to be as much as 90% by weight of the fields. The tire crumbs are roughly the size of grains of course sand. They are made by shredding and grinding used tires. Tire crumb materials are spread two to three inches thick over the field surface and packed between ribbons of green plastic used to simulate green grass.”

Posted by Patricia Taylor on September 06, 2007 at 01:25 AM | #

Dear Community

We have recently invested time in researching and gathering available information, comments, research and studies, online, from all over the world, on the topic of the potential hazards of crumb rubber infill on synthetic grass fields. We will continue to enhance the index, as time, and information, allows.

Please feel free to review at your own pace. Comments and suggestions are welcome!


There are 2 specific links that may be of particular interest to those who wish to follow current events and read the studies, abstracts and commentaries:

  Independent Research Studies
  Articles & News Links for Current Events/Info

All the best in your endeavors
Annie Costa
[email protected]

Posted by Annie Costa on September 06, 2007 at 05:22 AM | #

I wonder if ASGI—Association of Synthetic Grass Installers—has come to the conclusion that the fields are safe?

Posted by Stacy Prince on September 06, 2007 at 11:16 AM | #

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