Excerpts from Mount Sinai’s Children’s Environmental Health Center’s “Artificial Turf: A Health-Based Consumer Guide.”
Be An Educated Artificial Turf Consumer
Beware of greenwashing: the use of terms like “organic”, “green”, and “Eco” do not guarantee safety. In fact, those terms are not regulated for turf products, so their meaning in this context is at best ambiguous.
Choose companies that are transparent and disclose all materials. Note than an MSDS sheet does NOT disclose all chemicals used in the product. To obtain complete disclosure, ask manufacturers to list all components in writing.
Contact the CEHC to discuss testing options and results.
Consider the possibility of maintaining a grass field with an underground drainage system
ASK the turf company:
Are the infill materials new (“virgin”) or recycled? It’s possible to obtain a full ingredients list for new materials, versus recycled which vary from lot to lot.
What additives and coatings are used on the blades and infill such as colorants, sealants, antimicrobials, and flame retardants? Many of these may be chemicals of concern and can leach from the product.
What is the composition of each layer including fiber blades, infill, and backing? Although much of the focus is on infill, all components of a turf field contain potential chemicals of concern.
Are Safety Data Sheets (SDS or MSDS) available that discuss each component? SDS or MSDS sheets are documents that contain information on potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity, and environmental) of a chemical product as well as safe handling procedures. Because manufacturers are not required to disclose all ingredients on an MSDS sheet, only those they deem to be potentially hazardous, these forms cannot be relied on as “ingredient lists.” However any turf company that you choose should be able to provide a complete list of chemical components for their product.
Has the turf been tested under realistic play conditions for heat generation, off-gassing, and particulate matter generation? Ideally this testing has been conducted by a third party that is not a paid consultant to the turf company. At a minimum the company should be able to provide you with their own test results or those of a consultant they have hired.
What products are required to sanitize (i.e. fungicides and antimicrobials) and clean the field and how often must they be applied? These products not only increase the likelihood of chemical exposures, they may increase maintenance costs. It’s important that manufacturers are upfront about all maintenance requirements. In addition, antimicrobials and fungicides may pose health risks for children chronically exposed to them.
The lifespan of various turf options – how soon will it need to be replaced?
Are there hidden costs such as those required for disposal of crumb rubber?
Will the turf be indoors or outdoors? Inhalational exposures are likely to be higher indoors without proper ventilation.
Ecotoxicity – Chemicals from artificial turf may be toxic to wildlife. Some studies have shown that new generations of turf such as EPDM are more toxic to aquatic life than crumb rubber
Siting of the field – is it in close proximity to water sources that may be contaminated by runoff?
Tips for Safer Play on Artificial Turf Surfaces
If you select a turf field that does contain chemicals of concern, post a safety warning on your field to keep players and spectators safe
Avoid use on very hot days
Avoid use for passive activities (i.e. sitting, lounging, picnicking)
Ensure good ventilation of indoor fields by opening doors and windows and utilizing fans
Monitor young children to prevent accidental ingestion
Always wear shoes on artificial turf
Wash hands before eating, drinking, or adjusting mouth guard
Clean cuts and abrasions immediately
Brush hair thoroughly after play
Remove and clean shoes and gear outside before getting in car
At home, take off shoes and shake out your children’s equipment and clothes outside or over the garbage
Shower immediately after playing on artificial turf
Vacuum any infill that comes into your home