Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are Turf Fields Toxic?

Seattle Parks department is busy laying down artificial turf fields all over the city.  Two new ones just went in blocks from our house, and I notice many at the school fields that have hosted the numerous soccer practices and games we've attended recently.

They smell awful, like plastic and rubber.  Our whole family carries the smell for maybe an hour after being at the field.

So here's my concern - is this safe?  What are these fields made of and are they toxic?  Do I really want my growing children on them for 6+ hours a week?

Based on a quick google search, I'm guessing I don't.  Clifford Law's Personal Injury blog has concerns.  In 2007, The New York Times published an article suggesting "worrisome levels of zinc and lead." Environmental Health News has a 2008 abstract for a study citing levels of toxic chemicals found in every test done and calling for evaluation of health risk to both adults and children.

Toxicity aside, over the years I've seem more than a few articles calling out the benefits of nature for a child's physical and emotional development, even some suggesting enhanced brain development.  There's no way playing on an artificial field is going to yield any of this goodness.

What do you know?  Any good resources to share on this topic? What on earth am I going to do about this quandary when the city is so gung-ho about them?


dbltall said...

The artificial turf is really great for fall soccer. Conditions in Seattle are such that "grass" fields turn into potholed mudpits. You have teams playing on these fields from 8am to 7pm all day long. Regular grass is ideally better to play on, but there is no way to get regular grass to stay playable. It's really hard to play the game when the ball stops dead because it is floating in a mini-pond.

Sara said...

Hear, hear. Yesterday was a prime example of the soccer/rain issue. Rosie played a game in the pouring rain at one of the schools with a grass field. By the end of the game the field morphed into a giant mud pit. The girls could hardly run in it and were at risk of losing their shoes to the muck.

So I love the ease of the turf fields. And I'm still worried about the toxicity levels.

PNW Mama said...

I share your concerns about the toxins. I cringe every time I see the little black flecks and the plastic grass. However, I know for sure that they are superior when it comes to the experience of the game. Not only do we get muddy, boggy, holey fields in the fall/winter, but that patchy grass (which was destroyed in the winter) turns into rock hard packed soil in the summer, which is hard on the joints. When I regularly played Ultimate, we dreamed of toxic artificial turf fields for the experience of playing on them. But I am not sure how I would feel about letting my kids play on them. A sidenote: I don't feel like playing a game at a sports field (artificial or real) is an especially "natural" experience. It's impossible to find places like that in nature. Grass alone does not make the experience one of being in nature.