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Artificial Turf: Environmental and Health Risks – What Do the Experts Say?

Environmental and Health Risks of Artificial Turf: What Do the Experts Say?

Artificial turf continues to gain in popularity for many reasons: its low maintenance, it looks great all year long, it saves on the water bill, and it has many practical applications from landscape grass, backyard putting greens, bocce ball court construction, and is beginning to take over most of the athletic fields and playgrounds in schools throughout the country. As its popularity increases, so does the scrutiny about artificial turf and fake grass usage. Concern stems around the notions that artificial turf and its components contains harmful chemicals, can harbor contagious or infectious diseases such as Staph or MRSA, and causes skin-related injuries for athletes performing on it. Fortunately for companies like O’Neill’s Green Services who install artificial turf, there are independent people and national organizations dedicated to collecting research and studies about artificial turf and its components.

In a recent article entitled “Safety Study of Artificial Turf Containing Crumb Rubber Infill Made from Recycled Tires: Measurements of Chemicals and Particulates in the Air, Bacteria in the Turf, and Skin Abrasions Caused by Contact with the Surface.”

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) concluded there were no health concerns regarding the inhalation of any volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s, above the surface of artificial turf. They also found that artificial turf harbored fewer bacteria (including MRSA and Staph) than natural grass. Skin Abrasions, however, were reported to be two to three times higher per 1,000 player hours on artificial turf compared to natural grass. The effects on skin infection rate for athletes competing on artificial turf compared to natural turf could not be predicted.

Several other studies support the notion of no elevated health risks associated with artificial turf and its components, namely the crumb rubber infill, which does contain zinc. Across the board, studies have proven that the levels of zinc found in the crumb rubber infill are well below levels of concern. (December 10, 2009 EPA Press Release, “Limited EPA Study Finds Low Level of Concern in Samples of Recycled Tires from Ball-field and Playground Surfaces ). In 2008, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) concluded that, “young children are not at risk from exposure to lead in these fields.”

Regarding other environmental effects of artificial turf, Milone & MacBroom 2008 concluded that on hot, sunny days, surface temperature of the fibers and “jerry curls” found in artificial turf are between 40-50 degrees hotter than ambient temperature, air temperature 2 feet above artificial turf was near ambient temperature, crumb rubber was only a few degrees warmer than ambient, and watering the field had a short-term positive effect on cooling. That’s why at O’Neill’s Green Services we use an acrylic Sand infill that helps keep the turf cool and has less chance of absorbing bacteria and obtaining other heavy metals in the infill. Over a 1-year period test for leaching where researchers tested for the chemicals lead, zinc, selenium, and cadmium, only zinc was detected and at well below water quality level.

Research validates that applications and usage of artificial turf is SAFE! The technology involved in creating artificial turf has come a long way in recent years as artificial turf products continue to get better year after year. Forever Putting Greens chooses to use Crystal Products, Tiger, and Turf Store Turf because of all of its positive characteristics,excellent durability and great look. So please choose O’Neill’s Green Services for your new artificial turf installs.

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