ARTIFICIAL TURF REVISITED

On April 30, 2015, we blogged about artificial turf fields and lead exposure to children from rubber crumbs in the artificial turf. On Tuesday, June 16, 2015, the Journal News published an article by Swapna Ramaswamy “Going Organic”. The article deals with schools looking to crumb rubber infill alternatives.

Many of the parents of high school students, including myself, see pellets all over their homes from artificial fields. These pellets are from used tires used as fill in the artificial turf field. These black pellets expose the user of the field to lead. As a result, parents are pushing to replace these fields with organic infill. Three local school district, Pleasantville, Irvington and Bronxville are replacing their artificial turf field made from tires to environmentally friendly infills. Pleasantville is in the process of replacing two of its artificial turf fields installed in 2002. These replacement fields will be switched from rubber infill to turf field with 90% coconut 20% cork infill. A father of a kindergartner at Pleasantville’s Bedford Road School started an online petition last year to get support to replace the fields with organic refill. 280 residents joined the movement and two fields are being replaced.

In Irvington, after two proposals to build artificial turf fields were turned down, residents approved a referendum that permitted installation of an artificial turf field with organic infill. In May, Bronxville voters approved $1.8 million proposal to install artificial turf field with organic infill. Last month, Ramapo Central School District defeated an $850,000 proposition to replace artificial turf fields following pressure from two board members who are doctors. The doctors pushed to more closely examine safety and health hazards linked to crumb rubber infill.

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issue a report about health implications of recycled tires crumb and unfortunately concluded concentrations of components monitored were “below levels of concern”. Yet, in 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested artificial turf area with turf fibers made from tire pellets and bar children younger than 6 years of age from the fields if the levels of lead exceeded federal limits for levels in the soil. At least 10 studies since 2007 including by safety commissioners and EPA have found harmful level of lead in turf fibers from rubber crumbs.

Earlier this month, the Environmental & Human Health, Inc., a non-profit organization of physicians and public health professional released a study done at Yale University showing carcinogens were found in crumb rubber infill. According to the Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, almost 11,000 synthetic turf fields are being used in North America.

Pleasantville School Superintendent, May Fox-Alter said while studies have been inconclusive about health effects, the organic infill option was more environmentally friendly. It will cost the district $1.5 million for replacement of two turf fields and the organic option added $105,000 to the price tag. She further stated that the coconut and cork infill will ensure cooler surfaces. Irvington is in the process of getting plans approved by the State Education Department and is expected to break ground on the fields next year. The blend of infill would depend on the manufacturers. It could be a combination of different materials as coconut, rice husk, sand and cork. Harrison District officials believe the bond was approved in large part due to the organic infill.

All school districts who have artificial turf fields with tire rubber should be constantly tested for lead levels and if these levels rise to federal danger levels, these fields should be replaced with artificial turf fields with organic infill.

If your children have been exposed to high lead levels from artificial turf fields call the law firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800.