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NY Advocate Calls for Testing of Artificial Turf

(Beyond Pesticides, June 18, 2007) Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum is calling for immediate, independent testing of rubber pellets that may pose serious health risks to New Yorkers. The rubber pellets, used to fill in synthetic turf in more than 70 athletic fields throughout the City, are made from recycled tires that contain high levels of cancer-causing chemicals. The health risks to families and kids playing on the turf remain unknown.

Public Advocate Gotbaum was joined by CUNY Professor William Crain and representatives from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest to call on the Parks Department to allow an independent study of the health impacts of the pellets before the City expands their use to additional fields.

Public Advocate Gotbaum said, “Families and children play in City parks every day – and they shouldn’t be placed in danger. We know these pellets contain toxic agents, but we don’t know if these hazardous agents will hurt families or children. That’s why the City should allow an exhaustive, independent study to help us identify possible health risks and protect New Yorkers.”

In 2006, researchers at Rutgers University studied the pellets and found levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at levels well above those set for soil by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. However, the study did not determine if the chemicals are absorbed into the body. The Parks Department has denied requests for further tests.

Professor William Crain said, “It is an important public health issue that we learn how these chemicals in synthetic turf might affect children or athletes. The Parks Department should be encouraging our research, not putting obstacles in our way.”

The Parks Department uses the rubber pellet infill on the surface of the turf to make it feel more natural. As a result, the pellets come in near-constant contact with people using the fields.

Gavin Kearney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest said, “New Yorkers deserve safe parks. Where legitimate health concerns are raised, the Parks Department should support efforts to address those concerns and not stone wall the process.”

Christian DiPalermo, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks, said, “Questions remain, and the City should make every effort to examine the turf issue in a transparent way to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers and the best use of public dollars.”

Professor Crain and researchers at Rutgers University have already secured funding to complete an independent study of the pellets. However, the funding is predicated on Parks Department authorization. Public Advocate Gotbaum said that the City should allow Rutgers University or another independent organization to analyze the health impact of these pellets.

Due to the unknown health effects of artificial turf and the health threats of pesticide-dependent playing fields, Beyond Pesticides recommends your school, neighborhood and/or city go organic. Communities around the country, such as Marblehead, Massachusetts and Cheshire, Connecticut, have had success in creating enjoyable and green organic playing fields. For more information, read “Pesticides and Playing Fields.”

Source: Press Release from The Public Advocate’s Office, Contact: John Collins, Press Secretary, (212) 669-4193; (917) 496-4587


4 Responses to “NY Advocate Calls for Testing of Artificial Turf”

  1. 1
    Paul Gong Says:

    way to go Betsy,

    Columbus Park ball field, NY Chinatown last year was fitted with artificial turf. We (Friends of Columbus Park) fought very hard to not have artificial turf in the park for various reasons.

    We had no idea that these black rubber pellets could cause health concerns. Please continue to investigate and research. Columbus Park in NY Chinatown is used by many people (young and old). We need “safe” parks and open areas.

    Paul Gong,
    President of Friends of Columbus Park
    In Support of your efforts!

  2. 2
    Eddie Says:

    It has greater durability and is more gentle on the athletes. The simple fact is that the fields are more usable and can utilize more playing time than natural grass fields.No problems! biomechanical lab and torture tests on artificial turf.The synthetic grass will be definitely safe for sportsman as it has the shock absorbing capacity .Also it provides oxygen, filter rainwater or cool the air.

  3. 3
    Kylie Says:

    After reading post and the responses on the safety of synthetic turf, I wanted to share some info I’ve found on artificial turf:

    To date, no state or federal agency has banned or restricted the use of artificial turf. Also, environmental health officials in Connecticut recently said that the chemical compounds associated with the recycled rubber tires used in artificial turf posed no danger to human health or the environment. Currently, half of all NFL teams play or practice on artificial turf fields, and artificial turf was just approved by FIFA for the 2010 World Cup.
    Crumb used tire rubber has been used in synthetic turf sports fields since it was introduced in 1997, and in playgrounds and tracks for much longer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s went on record to say that scrap tires are not a hazardous waste, and recommends using crumb material from used tires for playgrounds, running tracks, and sports fields. Each year, 25 million used auto tires that would have otherwise ended up in U.S. landfills, instead get recycled for use in synthetic turf fields.
    Synthetic turf fields substantially decrease water usage, essentially eliminate chemical treatments and reduce the man hours and power equipment operation needed to maintain a grass field.

  4. 4
    SFParks Says:

    here are a couple of YouTube videos on the subject


    Best Wishes,

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