Letter: Clearing up Conservation Commission confusion

Posted 5/15/24

To the editor:

Last week’s Barrington Times letter to the editor , from Barrington Conservation Commission members David Boyes and Joseph Roberts, presented information from the Mt. Sinai …

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Letter: Clearing up Conservation Commission confusion


To the editor:

Last week’s Barrington Times letter to the editor, from Barrington Conservation Commission members David Boyes and Joseph Roberts, presented information from the Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center and the New Jersey Institute of Technology about the health and environmental impact of synthetic turf fields.  Review of those abstracts indicates that the sources of toxic chemicals cited, and described in their letter to the editor, are from “crumb rubber” infill and PFAS used in the manufacture of the artificial grass blades.  

Crumb rubber used as fill in older types of synthetic turf was not recommended by the Barrington 2021 Ad Hoc Fields Advisory Committee.  

The Ad Hoc committee which included 21 Barrington public school, town council, municipal staff, school committee and municipal volunteers, endorsed using an alternative to crumb rubber. An example of an alternative fill to crumb rubber is Brockfill, which is an engineered wood particle designed to improve traction and reduce turf heat, in line with natural grass. Brockfill is 100 percent organic and compostable at the end of its useful life.

The other source of toxic chemicals, in the reports cited by Mr. Boyes and Mr. Roberts is PFAS, used as a lubricant in the extrusion process of manufacturing the fibers (artificial grass blades).  

The 2021 Ad Hoc committee recommended that the Town: (1) select an artificial turf manufacturer that affirms PFAS is not used in its manufacturing process and (2) commission a laboratory test to confirm the manufacturer’s claim regarding no PFAS, prior to purchase and installation.

I have confidence that the Town of Barrington will follow the recommendations of its 2021 Ad Hoc committee, by not using “crumb rubber” fill, and commissioning an independent laboratory test for PFAS prior to purchasing a turf product. 

Regarding the position of the NFL Players Association, elite athletes have expressed a preference for natural grass fields over artificial turf, citing safety concerns. However, their decision process is likely biased by the fact that the alternative to artificial turf for them is a professional quality natural grass surface, the likes of which the Town of Barrington would struggle to provide, given the resources available.  

A Sept. 2021 article entitled “Injury Risk Among Athletes on Artificial Turf: A Review of Current Literature” in the Journal of Current Orthopedic Practice, found variation in results that offer little by the way of definitive injury evidence for or against synthetic turf. Note that the 2021 Ad Hoc committee also recommended that turf shoes, as opposed to regular cleats, are important to aid in the release of rotational forces that can cause injury on synthetic fields.

Finally, as part of any weighing of environmental considerations, it is important to note that any location chosen for an artificial turf surface is currently treated with fertilizers and weed preventers on a regular basis and is watered to maintain the grass. While some means of irrigation would still be advisable to maintain an artificial turf field, watering needs would be significantly reduced and no fertilizers or herbicides would need to be used.

Mike Seward


Mike Seward is Barrington Park and Recreation Commission Chairman. 

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