Featured Media Resource: VIDEO: Feds Won’t Say if Artificial Turf on Your Kids Soccer Field Is Safe (NBC News)
The use of artificial turf on playing fields has become a topic of concern for some. Is it safe or not? NBC News has been reporting on this issue since their original investigation in 2008.
Do Now U
Should we continue to install artificial surfaces and turf, knowing potential dangers and health risks, or should we use natural grass? #DoNowUTurf
How to Do Now
To respond to the Do Now U, you can comment below or post your response on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Flickr, Google +, etc. Just be sure to include #DoNowUTurf and @KQEDedspace in your posts.
Learn More about Artificial Turf
Artificial, or synthetic, turf first came on the scene in the 1960s, however, it was not as technologically advanced as what we see used in fields today. It wasn’t until the 1990s that our modern version of artificial turf was introduced. Artificial turf bears a strong resemblance to natural grass in look, feel and playability, and it has grown in popularity over the years. Currently, more than 11,000 artificial turf fields are installed across the United States. In 2013 alone, about 1,300 fields were installed in places such as schools, parks and professional sports stadiums. Half of the NFL teams play on artificial fields. There are a number of benefits that artificial turf provides. However, there has been recent concern over the health risks of artificial turf.
Studies have shown that the “crumb rubber”–made from ground-up scrap tires–found in most artificial turf, may contain chemicals and metals including acetone, arsenic, lead and mercury. These substances have been linked to problems with the nervous system, including confusion, dizziness and unconsciousness. There is also concern that because these rubber pieces contain known carcinogens, the ingestion of them could cause cancer. The National Center for Health Research, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C., notes that not only are these rubber pieces found on artificial football and soccer fields, they are also being used as rubber mulch surrounding playgrounds. Opponents of artificial surfaces say long-term exposure to this rubber mulch has the potential to cause harm.
Proponents of artificial turf, like the Synthetic Turf Council, point to the benefits of artificial fields, including low maintenance. They can save up to a million gallons of water for each field a year compared with natural grass. They also do not require the use of pesticides and lawn chemicals. They do not need to be mowed and much more durable than natural grass fields. Supporters say that artificial turf is also safer for athletes to play on because it is slip resistant. Lastly, they say that turf cuts down on waste because most fields are made from recycled products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a test on artificial surfaces to address the concerns with the chemicals that the rubber pieces contain. It confirmed that there was a presence of lead, but not at a level that would be toxic to humans. CPSC staff stated that the test, however, did not go beyond testing for the presence of lead, and people should wash their hands after coming in contact with artificial turf.
What do you think? Should we cease installation of artificial surfaces and fields or do their benefits outweigh potential health risks?
ARTICLE: New England Center for Investigative Reporting
Crumb Rubber: Have Your Kids Been Exposed To A Cancer Risk?
This report discusses how artificial turf fields, which are being increasingly installed in the U.S., are becoming part of a hot debate due to potential health risks.
VIDEO and ARTICLE: NBC News
How Safe Is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?
Learn about the original investigation by NBC News about artificial turf and crumb rubber.
PDF: Synthetic Turf Council
Synthetic Turf 360°: A Guide for Today’s Synthetic Turf
This brochure provides information on the benefits of artificial turf fields.
This post was written by the following students at Indiana State University: Hunter McCord, Andrew Medsker and Brandon Madhaffey.
KQED Do Now U is a bi-weekly activity in collaboration with SENCER. SENCER is a community of transformation that consists of educators and administrators in the higher and informal education sectors. SENCER aims to create an intelligent, educated, and empowered citizenry through advancing knowledge in the STEM fields and beyond. SENCER courses show students the direct connections between subject content and the real world issues they care about, and invite students to use these connections to solve today’s most pressing problems.