Letter: Please evaluate life cycle of artificial turf fields

Posted 5/21/24

To the editor:

We are writing to express our concern about the proposed plan to install artificial turf playing fields. As members of the Barrington Conservation Commission, we are focused on …

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Letter: Please evaluate life cycle of artificial turf fields

Posted

To the editor:

We are writing to express our concern about the proposed plan to install artificial turf playing fields. As members of the Barrington Conservation Commission, we are focused on environmental issues. In a separate letter, other members of the Barrington Conservation Commission have addressed health risks and costs.  

Artificial or plastic turf is harmful to the environment for the following reasons:

  1. The plastic grass blades contain PFAS (also known as forever chemicals). The U.S. Environmental Agency states that exposure to PFAS has been linked to cancers, as well as immune and developmental damage to infants and children.
  2. To look and feel like natural grass, the plastic grass blades must be softened with plasticizers. They are also treated with flame retardants. The plastic blades become brittle with time and exposure to sun and wind. Fragments can mix with infill dust and be blown or washed away into the surrounding ecosystem.
  3. Infill makes artificial turf feel spongy. No matter what type of infill – silica sand, cork/coconut, plastic pellets, or crumb rubber – all contain chemicals that can leach into the surrounding environment and eventually into ground water. While the more natural materials likely contain fewer hazardous chemicals than crumb rubber, most have not been studied thoroughly. In fact, some plant-based materials raise concerns related to allergies. Manufacturers have provided no evidence that any infill is organic.
  4. Artificial turf fields do not cool the environment (i.e., urban heat island effect) or filter air and water like natural grass fields. 
  5. Artificial turf fields last between 8 and 10 years and then must be replaced at considerable cost. Manufacturers claim that their product can be recycled. Unfortunately, there are limited locations to recycle them. As of today, we are aware of 2 plants in Europe, and a potential plant in Pennsylvania and one in Texas. If recycling ever happens, we expect that it will be very expensive due to the difficulty in separating the many components that comprise a plastic field. 
  6. Currently, worn-out plastic fields are piling up. Landfills are starting to refuse to take them. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are 2 states where artificial turf has been dumped - in open fields (PA) and next to wetlands (MA), with the potential for toxic runoff to leach into ground water.

We respectively ask that the full life cycle of these artificial turf fields be evaluated (e.g., environmental, and financial costs of maintaining artificial turf, as well as disposal and replacement). We hope community members will consider the information and resources provided, to make informed decisions before voting at the Financial Town Meeting on Wed, May 22nd and on Election Day, Tues, November 5th. 

Resources (all independent, non-profit organizations):

  • Safehealthyplayingfields.org: #s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Environmental and Human Health, Inc (ehhi.org): #s 1, 3, 4, 6
  • Green Building Alliance (gba.org): #s 1, 3, 4, 5
  • SustainableSharon.org: #s 1, 2, 4, 5, 6
  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (peer.org): #s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Ted Myatt

Barrington

Eileen M. Small

Barrington

Ted Myatt and Eileen Small are members of the Barrington Conservation Commission.

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