I was very concerned after reading the two articles in the 17 March edition of The Falmouth Enterprise regarding the need for new athletic fields. Research by Gale Associates concluded that the town will need either three new artificial fields or nine new grass fields to address the high usage. My concerns are with the costs and health issues associated with artificial turf.
Artificial turf is constructed of plastic “blades of grass” with ground-up tire particles (crumb) packed in-between the blades. Initial installation of an artificial turf field will cost between $850,000 and $1 million. They are not maintenance-free.
According to an artificial turf compilation report released by Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI.org), these fields need to be watered down on sunny warm days to reduce surface temperatures (the temperature of the surface on a 70°F day can reach 125°F or higher on warmer days); they need to be disinfected periodically to reduce the risk of infection; the lines have to be repainted every week or two; the “infill” (ground-up tires) breaks down with use and weathering; the fields need to be raked regularly in season and the infill has to be vacuumed up, washed and re-fluffed every four years.
These fields require snow removal in winter to prevent mold and surface damage. Finally, they do not last forever and will need replacement after nine to 10 years. The cost of disposal and replacement can run as high as $400,000.
Whole tires are considered to be a hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency; however, ground-up tires are not! Research has determined that each field contains 40,000 ground-up tires. Rubber tires are made with many carcinogenic chemicals that may include heavy metals (lead, zinc, iron and manganese), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), 1,3-butadiene; benzene; and carbon black. These fields off-gas chemicals at a higher rate in direct sunlight and the warmer temperatures of the seasonal recreation period. As the infill breaks down, the particles become smaller and ultimately create a toxic dust that can be easily inhaled by children.
The cost of artificial fields to taxpayers is far too great and when coupled with the potential health risks to children the choice is clear: Build and maintain grass fields.
Marcia M. Klattenberg