My view

The hazards of artificial turf

Posted 5/29/24

These comments on artificial turf were delivered to the Eldred school board on April 25. The district plans to install artificial turf on an athletic field. 

My name is Rebekah Creshkoff, …

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My view

The hazards of artificial turf


These comments on artificial turf were delivered to the Eldred school board on April 25. The district plans to install artificial turf on an athletic field. 

My name is Rebekah Creshkoff, and I live in Callicoon. I am a cofounder of Beyond Plastics Sullivan County and a public speaker on the subject of plastics. 

I recently learned that your district intends to install an artificial turf sports field. I am here to urge you to reconsider, because turf is not safe. 

The industry is completely unregulated. Turf exposes children to dangerous chemicals, and not just from the infill. The plastic grass itself also contains carcinogens, neurotoxicants, reproductive toxicants and respiratory irritants. 

Young people are particularly vulnerable because their various body systems are still developing. 

Among the chemicals turf contains are PFAS, the “forever chemicals.” Two weeks ago, the EPA issued the first-ever drinking water standard to protect communities from PFAS, which have been linked to many adverse health effects, like decreased fertility, increased risk of certain cancers, hormonal disruption, high cholesterol, liver damage, developmental disorders, impaired immune function and more. 

Every brand of artificial turf tested by independent researchers has been found to have PFAS in it. Athletes aren’t the only ones affected: The entire community is exposed, because runoff from fields enters waterways, groundwater and drinking water. 

One turf field sheds more than 200 pounds of micro- and nanoplastics a year. These tiny fragments get into the environment and our bodies, where they continue to release toxic chemicals. 

You may have heard of other concerns about turf, like its higher rate of foot and ankle injuries. And artificial turf is hot, both the surface itself and the air above it at head height. On an 80-degree day, turf fields can be up to 70 degrees hotter than natural grass, putting players at risk of severe burns, dehydration, heat stress and heat stroke. Heat illness is the number-one cause of death and disability in high school athletes. 

Then there are “turf burns”—painful abrasions caused by skidding or sliding across artificial turf. Germs on the field can enter the body through these wounds: Artificial turf has been implicated in outbreaks of MRSA among athletic teams.

Turf requires regular maintenance. Fields must be tested for hardness by a turf professional at least once a year to ensure they haven’t become dangerous for players falling to the surface. Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences names eight other maintenance tasks that must be conducted monthly, weekly, or before or after each game. 

Turf fields need to be replaced every eight to 10 years. Salespeople may claim turf can be recycled, but multilayered plastic products are inherently unrecyclable, and it can cost more than $20,000 to landfill a field. 

On December 31, 2026, a new state law will go into effect that bans PFAS in carpets, including turf. Since turf cannot be made without PFAS, when a field wears out eight or 10 years from now, it will need to be replaced with natural grass. 

I urge you to install a well-designed grass field and to maintain it properly. It’s the safer, more cost-effective choice for your kids and your community. 

I am sorry to be raising this when you’re so far along in the process, but I truly did not learn about this project until a month ago. 

If you’d like more information on the hazards of turf or PFAS, I’d be happy to help. Thank you. 

Rebekah Creshkoff is a volunteer with Beyond Plastics Sullivan County.

artificial, turf, hazards, plastic, PFAS


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