Letter: Commission has concerns about artificial turf

Posted 5/15/24

To the editor:

At its March 4, 2024 meeting, the Barrington Town Council presented its proposal for the installation of artificial turf fields at the town’s athletic complexes and $4.5M of …

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Letter: Commission has concerns about artificial turf


To the editor:

At its March 4, 2024 meeting, the Barrington Town Council presented its proposal for the installation of artificial turf fields at the town’s athletic complexes and $4.5M of a $5M bond initiative earmarked for financing this proposal. At various forums, the Barrington Conservation Commission (BCC) expressed its concerns regarding the impact of artificial turf fields on the health and safety of the town’s youth, as well as the long-term environmental impact turf fields pose to the community and the environs at large. 

As this bond is up for a vote at the Financial Town Meeting and a referendum on artificial turf is set for the November Election, the BCC reiterates its health and safety concerns, as well as the lasting environmental impact of this proposal. We take our public service and education commitments seriously. Therefore, the BCC presents the following information:

As recently as March of this year, The Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center recommends against the installation of artificial turf playing surfaces and fields due to the uncertainties surrounding the safety of these products and the potential for dangerous heat and chemical exposures to youth. “Children are uniquely vulnerable to harmful exposures from artificial turf surfaces because of their unique physiology and behaviors, rapidly developing organ systems, and immature detoxification mechanisms.” It should be noted that the concerns relate to the plastic fibers themselves, the extrusion process used to form them, and the infill materials.

In a 2022 review article published in Environmental Pollution, scholars from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, note that several studies that show chemicals are found in artificial turf, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phthalates, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are known carcinogens, neurotoxicants, mutagens, and endocrine disruptors. Many of these chemicals have no safe level of exposure based on their non-monotonic dose curves.

Noncontact injuries for NFL players were higher on artificial turf than grass during the 2022 season, according to data from the NFL Players Association. Additionally in 10 of the las 11 years, data confirm that grass is safer than turf. Most players (92%) prefer playing on natural grass.

FIFA, the world’s organizing body for soccer has insisted that all North American stadiums used for the 2026 World Cup have natural grass fields. Although FIFA has standards for using artificial turf, natural grass is preferred. 

The BCC supports many recommendations of the recently prepared Athletic Fields Condition and Needs Analysis. The BCC supports a line item in the budget for maintenance of the athletics fields per the report recommendations (i.e., strict programs to maintain quality grass) including dedicated staff/equipment for field maintenance. Furthermore, the BCC’s environmental summary to the Ad Hoc Athletic Field Committee recommended the installation of two to three additional full-sized fields on a carefully scheduled rotation under a well-balanced agronomic system. 

As more communities and organizations question the long-term health and safety of artificial turf, why would Barrington proceed headlong into a decision that could negatively impact our children and grandchildren?

David Boyes


Joseph W. Roberts


David Boyes and Joseph Roberts are members of the Barrington Conservation Commission.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.