Detrimental to Your Pets
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Installing synthetic turf has become all the rage recently. It was even featured on some Bay Area local channels. Commonly known in the past as astro turf, it has been reinvented, repacked and now called ‘eco turf.’ It is being touted as the latest in green landscaping. There is even a striking list of ecological “solutions” that this product addresses. Those include no mowing, no watering or expensive irrigation systems, no weed control, and no other maintenance headaches like fertilizing and hauling away grass clippings.
The latest synthetic turf is even manufactured from recycled plastic and is recycable at the end of its life. Your kids can play on it in the rain and won’t get muddy. It is wheel chair accessible. So it seems like we have solved a horde of environmental issues with one product, so what’s not to love?
Synthetic Turf is a Heat Island
The ‘heat island’ refers to the phenomena in which urban air and surfaces sustain higher temperatures than nearby rural areas.
The images below comparing air, water, bermudagrass, sand, asphalt, and synthetic turf surface temperatures illustrate how hot a synthetic field can reach during a warm day.
The hot surface can increase your pet's risk for heat stroke. When it is warm, we advise keeping dogs off of synthetic turf. Because they do not wear shoes, they are more likely to absorb heat through their feet.
Crumbled automobile tires are included in synthetic turf to mimic the look and feel of soil. Cool, a new way to recycle tires? The problem is that this ‘soil’ is dead and in addition during rain it leaches carcinogens, hazardous chemicals, and heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, zinc and arsenic. This leachate is considered toxic runoff. Where does it go? Straight into our rivers, creeks and oceans. Replacing natural grass with synthetic turf is not a carbon-neutral process especially considering that natural grass helps eliminate Co2, one of the major green house gases, from the atmosphere, synthetic turf however does not.
Findings from a study published by The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in 2007 shows numerous chemicals that are detrimental to human health present in tire-crumbs commonly used in synthetic fields. The composition of ground rubber was investigated in the Connecticut study and it was determined that the chemicals leached by crumbled tires exceed the cancer risk threshold in young people, children, and babies. The Synthetic Fields Task Force for the city of San Francisco identified eleven health and environmental issues of public concern.
The report could not determine the safety of children using synthetic turf with tire waste or if it is harmful to children’s health. It did confirm that the ground up tire waste contains quantities of lead, carcinogens, and other hazardous chemicals that are unregulated. The report also noted that controlling virulent bacterial growth in tire waste fields poses a significant challenge.
Our kids are now expected to play on a low level toxic surface. During strenuous activities they breathe in these toxic off gasses. Because plastic is not an inert substance, it both leaches and off-gasses pieces of itself. Plastics are known to release endrocrin disrupters because it contains zeno estrogen. Zeno estrogen can wreak havoc with the puberty cycle in the human body. With synthetic turf there is direct and close contact with the lungs and skin of the growing bodies of children. This would not seem to me to be a great combination. We are acting as if the jury is still out regarding the detrimental effects on human health from synthetic turf. Just call our kids guinea kids.
Because of the toxic runoff and drainage issues this is a product that is not healthy for the watershed. I interviewed a worm regarding this product and it was none too happy about it to say the least. The soil food web, the vast ‘web’ of life in the soil beneath our feet is under extreme duress under synthetic turf, primarily because this soil is deprived of oxygen. No oxygen, no life. Much of the current product being installed today in playing fields is made from unrecycled virgin plastic, a petroleum product that adds to global warming in its manufacture.
Written by Ken Foster, a landscape contractor and the owner of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping.
*Information is included in this article from an article in the Fog City Journal.