The reservoir's historic structures & ecosystems are an opportunity to create a unique environmental education center for our children & their future.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Artificial turf articles

Below are links to three articles from the website of "Healthy Child Healthy World" regarding the increasing use of artificial recreational surfaces and causes for concern:

The Myth of Rubberized Landscapes

The Myth

Discarded rubber tires are the bane of waste management; according to the EPA, we generate 290 million scrap tires annually. Scrap tire stockpiles can pose significant fire hazards, such as the 1983 Virginia tire fire that burned for 9 months. Obviously finding a market for these slow-to-decompose materials is desirable, and many innovative uses have been developed, including rubberized asphalt, playground surfaces, and landscape mulches. From an engineering standpoint, crumb rubber as a soil amendment has performed favorably in reducing compaction to specialty landscape surfaces such as sports fields and putting greens.

Rubber mulches are touted by manufacturers and distributors as permanent (“doesn’t decay away”) and aesthetically pleasing (“no odor” - “looks like shredded wood mulch” – “earth tones and designer colors” – “special fade resistant coating”) landscape materials. Furthermore, we are told that rubber mulch is “safe for flowers, plants and pets” (though it “doesn’t feed or house insects”) and “dramatically improves landscaping.” It seems to be an environmentally-friendly solution to a major waste disposal problem.

Serious Questions About New-Generation Artificial Turf

Artificial turf is being widely promoted as a cost-efficient, environmentally- and user-friendly product that can replace natural grass on sports fields and home lawn areas.

Unfortunately a large number of unsubstantiated claims are being made by promoters of the new-generation artificial turf products (particularly those that incorporate ground rubber as part of their base). Claims made by many artificial promoters include some or all of the following:

1. Artificial surfaces have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years.
2. Initial purchase and installation costs are quickly offset by the absence of on going, maintenance costs.
3. Safety of the artificial playing surface is un-matched by natural turfgrass.

Hazardous Chemicals in Synthetic Turf

A new generation of synthetic turf is becoming popular in the U.S.

Brands such as FieldTurf are springier than the old AstroTurf and feel more like real grass. They also promise low maintenance costs. New York City is so attracted to the new synthetic turf that it is installing it in 79 parks, often substituting it for natural soil and grass.(1)

However, the new artificial grass raises health concerns. In particular, the base of FieldTurf and similar brands includes recycled rubber pellets that could contain harmful chemicals. What's more, we have observed that on many New York City fields, the rubber pellets are also present on the surface. When one of us (William Crain) was picking up some pellets by hand, a boy told him that after playing in the park, he finds the pellets in his shoes at home at night. Because the rubber pellets are much more accessible to children and athletes than we had supposed, we decided to analyze a sample for two possible sets of toxicants -- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and toxic metals.

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