Should kids be playing on turf fields?

WASHINGTONPOST

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The tests were ordered by a landscape architecture firm that designs both grass and turf fields.
In the meantime, he tries to limit his daughter’s playing time on artificial turf fields.
“But if they want to use it in artificial turf and my kid is exposed to it 2,070 hours a year, well, what is that doing to her body?”Concerns about turf and chemicalsArtificial turf fields are booming: According to the Synthetic Turf Council, there are about 18,000 turf fields in North America.
AdvertisementThe PFAS debate is not the first time concerns have been raised about the safety and chemical exposure of playing on turf fields.
And there is an ongoing debate about whether turf fields pose a greater risk of foot and leg injuries to children and adults alike.
She has environmental and injury risk concerns about turf and also worries turf fields are much hotter than grass.
Not with the use it gets.”The synthetic carpet in turf fields need to be replaced typically every eight years, said Taylor, of the Synthetic Turf Council.
But rolls of old turf fields can wind up in landfills — and some scientists say the PFAS in the turf fields won’t easily break down over time.
Concerns regarding artificial turf have spurred some states and local governments to take action: New York has banned the sale of artificial turf with PFAS, starting at the end of 2026.
And bills prohibiting the purchase of new artificial turf fields in certain places, such as schools, have been introduced in Massachusetts and Vermont.

While their coach swabbed their hands, the three 6-year-old girls stood on the sidelines. Then, without leaving the pitch, they ran onto a lush, green turf field and played soccer for ninety minutes nonstop. This was more than a drill. It was a component of a small experiment carried out in the San Diego suburban foothills last summer.

The assistant soccer coach for the kids, Salar Parvini, 44, also swabbed his hands before sending the samples collected before and after practice to a laboratory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There, they would undergo testing for “forever chemicals,” or PFAS, a large class of synthetic chemicals connected to a range of health issues, including cancer and high cholesterol.

promotion.

Parvini and his players, who are all San Diego Surf soccer players, are among the first subjects in a growing body of research investigating whether PFAS in artificial turf really represent a health risk, particularly to young people whose developing bodies are especially vulnerable to harmful substances.

In Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, California, and other states, there are discussions concerning artificial turf at town halls, school boards, and city council meetings. Certain scientists and critics of turf argue that, considering the existing knowledge of the chemicals’ harmful effects, the presence of PFAS in turf is concerning.

However, scientists and proponents of turf argue that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that PFAS in turf are dangerous. In addition, supporters claim that synthetic fields require less water than grass, don’t require pesticides, and enable more competitive play on a regular basis without the mud pits and potholes that require maintenance on natural fields.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS for short, are found in a wide range of products and have earned the moniker “forever chemicals” due to their propensity to linger in the environment for many years. They prevent food from sticking to cookware, add water resistance to raincoats and backpacks, and help carpets stain-resistant. Furthermore, they can be employed in the production of artificial turf’s plastic grass blades.

Two of the three players, including Parvini’s daughter Emma, had more PFAS on their hands when they left the turf field after the practice, according to test results from the San Diego soccer kids experiment. Parvini also did it. While Parvini was found to have more PFAS on his hands, two of the players showed a decrease in PFAS when they practiced on natural grass. (Before they were used on both fields, the new soccer balls also contained measurable levels of PFAS. ).

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a nonprofit that opposes the use of artificial turf, provided funding for the San Diego experiment. Due in part to the widespread use of PFAS, the data are far from definitive. Testing from Massachusetts’s Martha’s Vineyard. discovered that the levels of PFAS in soil samples taken from sports fields were similar to those in turf samples. An organization that designs both turf and grass fields for landscape architecture requested the tests.

Melanie Taylor, the president and chief executive of the Synthetic Turf Council (STC), an industry trade group, referred to the results of tests indicating PFAS contamination in soil in an email. Companies are searching for a standardized testing procedure, she said, to ensure that PFAS isn’t used in the production of their turf products.

Taylor stated, “STC has worked with its members to ensure that their products contain no intentionally added PFAS constituents.”.

In an effort to ascertain whether PFAS and other chemicals found in turf samples can find their way onto athletes and endanger their health, academic researchers are now carrying out higher-quality investigations.

Christopher Kassotis, an assistant professor at Wayne State University’s Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, expressed his opinion that there haven’t been nearly enough studies to determine whether the chemicals in turf can have an impact on the endocrine system. Kassotis is getting ready to conduct a study on the subject. “Human exposure is a crucial component of risk, but there hasn’t been much research done on it. “.

Larger investigations are required, according to Kyla Bennett, the director of science policy at PEER and the principal investigator behind the San Diego tests, who called the results a “red flag.”.

promotion.

However, some parents are not holding out for more lucid responses. Parvini has taken up the cause of getting California school boards to utilize turf fields free of pesticides and fertilizers. He makes an effort to restrict his daughter’s playing time on artificial turf fields in the interim.

It is fantastic if they wish to use PFAS in microchips. “My child doesn’t consume microchips,” he declared. “What is happening to my child’s body if they want to use it in artificial turf and she is exposed to it for 2,070 hours a year?”.

worries regarding chemicals and turf.

There are a lot of artificial turf fields in North America; the Synthetic Turf Council estimates that there are about 18,000 of them. 1,500 are reportedly installed annually.

A plastic resin is heated and forced through a machine to form a yarn in order to create turf. Joe Fields, the CEO of TenCate Grass Americas, a turf company located in Dayton, Tennessee, said that manufacturers use lubricants to aid in the extrusion process. , wrote in an email. According to him, these lubricants have previously included traces of PFAS.

According to Fields, TenCate removed PFAS from its production process in order to provide its clients with “total peace of mind since there are many types of PFAS and much confusion around these various types of PFAS and their potential to effect people or the environment.”. “.

According to Taylor of the STC, the completed artificial fields consist of multiple layers, one of which is an infill that is often composed of rubber mixed with sand, coconut fibers, cork, nutshells, or coconut fibers. This ensures that the artificial grass blades do not get matted down.

Environmental advocacy groups and researchers warn that chemicals from the field may be released by years of sun exposure, rain, and cleat wear, exposing athletes to potential risks to their health. Nevertheless, not much research has been done on those issues.

Jonathan Benskin, a professor in Stockholm University’s environmental science department, stated, “We still don’t know enough about the effect of weathering.” Benskin co-wrote a peer-reviewed study in 2022 that discovered PFAS in artificial turf but found no “imminent” risk related to it. (The lab material’s chemicals could not be extracted by the researchers. ( ).

Promoting something.

Concerns concerning the safety and chemical exposure of playing on turf fields have been voiced before, not only during the PFAS controversy. Questions concerning the rubber infill’s composition arose almost ten years ago after a number of soccer goalies who played on turf developed cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2019 that lead and other chemicals were present in rubber infill, but the report did not conclude that turf posed a health risk to humans. Furthermore, there is continuous discussion regarding whether turf fields increase the risk of foot and leg injuries for both adults and children.

At the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, Sarah Evans, an assistant professor of environmental medicine and public health, said, “We’ve always warned people that there are hazards of using artificial turf.”. Under all circumstances, natural grass is a safer option. “.

The discussion surrounding artificial turf.

A protracted legal dispute ensued in Martha’s Vineyard over proposals to install an artificial turf field at the public high school. Concerns about PFAS getting into the island’s aquifer were shared by critics, some of whom were parents.

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Mother of three Rebekah Thomson, 46, of Martha’s Vineyard is one of the co-founders of Field Fund, a nonprofit organization that opposes the installation of artificial turf. She worries that turf poses a risk to the environment and human health, and that turf fields receive significantly more heat than grass.

“Better is what our kids deserve. They ought to be on grass and dirt, the woman declared. “They should be on a surface that is safe for their bodies and their future, one that won’t endanger the environment in which they live.”. “.

However, Chris Huntress, the president of Huntress Associates, the landscape architecture firm that commissioned the Martha’s Vineyard soil testing, stated he is unconcerned about the amount of PFAS present in the turf materials he uses for his projects.

There are numerous reasons why one could not like turf. It is indeed hotter than grass found in nature, as stated by Huntress. For PFAS, however, you cannot disapprove of it. Since the trace elements we’re seeing are so tiny, it has been demonstrated that they have no effect on either environmental or human health. “.

Promoting something.

After 32 years as the football coach at the high school in Martha’s Vineyard, Donald Herman, a retired physical education teacher, stated that teams require an artificial turf field that can accommodate football, soccer, and lacrosse during the term.

Herman stated, “I would be in favor of grass if I believed it could be effective here, for our school.”. It’s ineffective here, though. Considering how it is used, no. “.

According to Taylor of the Synthetic Turf Council, turf fields’ synthetic carpets normally need to be replaced every eight years. Recycling initiatives have been started by some turf manufacturers, according to her.

However, rolls of abandoned turf fields may end up in landfills, and according to some scientists, the PFAS in these fields will not degrade readily over time.

According to environmental chemist Ian Cousins, a professor at Stockholm University, “these are made to be pretty much indestructible.”. “Those materials aren’t indigenous. Therefore, their entry into the environment is not good. They won’t, however, vanish once they get there. “.

Milton, Massachusetts, resident Paul Makishima. has voiced his concerns about a proposed $2.55 million project that would install a turf field close to a brook in his neighborhood.

Ten neighbors are challenging the town’s decision. Makishima expressed concerns about what would happen to the wetlands, the brook, and possibly even to those of us who live nearby.

Fears about artificial turf have prompted a few state and local governments to act: New York has outlawed the sale of artificial turf containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), effective December 31, 2026. Furthermore, legislation in Vermont and Massachusetts that forbids the establishment of brand-new artificial turf fields in specific locations, like schools, has been introduced.

figuring out the science.

It’s unclear, according to scientists, whether PFAS in artificial turf can enter the human body through the skin, mouth, or nose, or through scrapes on the knee or elbow. Research is being conducted to enhance comprehension of the hazards.

Professor Graham Peaslee of the University of Notre Dame, whose lab regularly tests common products for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), has supervisingly studied samples of artificial turf and reported that they have consistently detected minute amounts of PFAS in the materials tested. He’s getting ready to submit the results of his lab to a peer-reviewed journal for publication.

He declared, “The entire community is of concern, not just the players.”.

Wayne State University researchers intend to replicate the San Diego tests in Detroit, but with a larger group of athletes and a more expansive goal: they want to look at all possible chemicals from artificial turf fields. Lead investigator Kassotis is interested in learning more about whether the chemicals have the potential to impact children’s endocrine systems.

“Changes in early life, when those signaling processes are so critical, can have lasting health effects in all sorts of areas when you start to have chemicals that can erroneously activate or inhibit those pathways,” Kassotis explained.

Additionally, a five-year study on “the ingredients and the chemical composition of some of the fields” is being funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, according to the study’s researcher, Homero Harari, an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Despite these initiatives, some scientists claim that because PFAS are already so widely distributed in the environment, it will be challenging to draw any firm conclusions regarding turf.

Elizabeth Denly, a chemist and the head of TRC’s PFAS initiative, stated that once the turf is installed, it is impossible to definitively link any PFAS found to the material itself. (Denly collaborated with Portsmouth, New Hampshire. G. for the purpose of testing manufacturer-provided turf samples. ( ).

According to Denly, it is nearly hard to examine any product without discovering a trace amount of PFAS.

Researchers should have a better understanding of any possible risks to human health from artificial turf use within the next ten years, according to Kassotis.

The Ecology Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization with headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, employs Jeff Gearhart as its research director. intends to perform his own research in the lab using weathered turf samples. We now know enough about the environmental risks, according to Gearhart, to restrict the use of these materials.

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