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Daily News Blog

06
Nov

Sports World Rejects Synthetic Turf, Favors Natural Grass as Organic Offers Safe Alternative

organic grass vs synthetic turf sports

(Beyond Pesticides, November 6, 2023) Communities discussing synthetic versus natural turf are faced with a number of issues that go to safety, environmental health, and cost. The chemicals used to manage synthetic turf for bacteria, mold, and fungus raise serious health issues and represent a threat that does not exist in organic land management. When all the synthetic turf issues are considered, including chemical use, maintenance, heat effects, water contamination and treatment, playability and safety, organic grass turf offers an approach that checks all the critical boxes for protecting health and the environment at a competitive price.

Hazards of synthetic (artificial) turf made news this fall following injuries to New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rogers and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, among others. Following safety concern, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) issued a  call to end the use of synthetic turf and a return to natural turf. The FIFA World Cup soccer association requires a grass playing field. The players are not the only ones demanding grass fields. Fans of singer-songwriter Taylor Swift came out in full force in favor of the switch after the injury to Ms. Swift’s rumored boyfriend Travis Kelce.

Beyond sports injuries, concerns about environmental and health hazards are emerging as communities and school boards discuss the fields used for school and community sports.  This debate is taking place as communities are increasingly shifting the management of their playing fields and parks to organic practices, eliminating toxic pesticides and fertilizers, building soil biology to cycle nutrients naturally, increasing resiliency of turf, and decreasing water use.

Tell your Mayor* and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to make the switch to organic grass turf.

[*Our database may not include your Mayor through our one-click action. However, you may use our proposed language for sending a letter to your Mayor. Please cut-and-paste the text provided HERE and send in an email to your local Mayor’s office.]

Although manufacturers and advocates of artificial turf (who have created confusion by redefining “turf” to mean synthetic turf) tout its benefits, claiming improved safety and reduced environmental impact, among others, the facts contradict these claims.

Synthetic turf also causes injuries to high school athletes.

A groundbreaking study, The dark side of artificial greening: Plastic turfs as widespread pollutants of aquatic environments, has unearthed some disturbing revelations on the use of artificial turf. This comprehensive study, prominently featured in the Environmental Pollution (June 2023) journal, has cast a spotlight on the dire consequences of plastic fibers from artificial turf, which are wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems.

River transport and stormwater runoff can carry plastics and microplastics into waterways. Once they make their way into the water, these fibers pose a menacing threat to marine life, leading to a host of health issues and, tragically, even mortality. The fibers also accumulate in sediments, compromising the overall health of aquatic ecosystems. The study authors indicate that plastic fields require enhanced waste management practices to staunch the plastic fibers from entering aquatic habitats.

A builder of sports facilities, American Athletic, states, “Beyond surface cleaning, the artificial turf should be sanitized weekly or monthly to protect the players’ and coaches’ health. This disinfection requires special solvents, cleansers, and anti-microbial products to remove invisible particles and bacterial growth. You should strive to sanitize the field after every game and throughout the school day if it’s used for physical education classes.”

Artificial fields can cost over $1 million for field installation, drainage system, and additional costs for water treatment for an approximately 10-year lifespan, not including the game-day and ongoing maintenance costs. Manufacturers also recommend watering the synthetic fields during hot weather because of the heat generated by the artificial material. Studies record maximum surface temperatures on synthetic fields during hot, sunny conditions averaging from 140° F to 170° F, while natural grass is rarely recorded to be above 100° F.

Organic management practices build soil health, cycle nutrients naturally, enhance turf resiliency, reduce water use, and do not use petrochemical pesticides or fertilizers. The organic alternative is central to a community’s discussion about its residents’ commitment to both the elimination of practices and products that are petrochemical-based and the ability of organically managed soils to draw down (sequester) atmospheric carbon, which contributes to mitigating global warming and erratic temperatures.

Sign up to be a Parks Advocate today to encourage your community to transition to organic land management. Plan on attending Session 3 of the National Forum, Transformative Community-Based Change from the Ground Up: Managing Parks and Playing Fields with Organic Practices and Policies, on November 29, 2023, at 2:00 pm Eastern. Speaker and registration information HERE. This session is for all who want beautiful landscapes, parks, and playing fields without the reliance on petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers. The subject matter is cross-cutting and will inform people concerned about their health and community health, elected officials (from town, city, county, regional, state to school boards) interested in effecting movement away from toxic chemical reliance, and land managers and landscapers who work in parks and on playing fields and other landscapes.

Tell your Mayor* and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to make the switch to organic grass turf.

[*Our database may not include your Mayor through our one-click action. However, you may use our proposed language for sending a letter to your Mayor. Please cut-and-paste the text provided HERE and send in an email to your local Mayor’s office.]

Letter to mayor:

Following injuries to Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rogers, and others, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) is calling for a return to natural turf. The same issue arises with regard to playing fields for school and community sports. Besides the issue of safety for players, artificial turf is a source of environmental pollution that is difficult to mitigate.

Although manufacturers of artificial turf tout supposed benefits, claiming improved safety and reduced environmental impact, among others, there are reasons to believe otherwise. Although manufacturers and advocates of artificial turf tout its benefits, claiming improved safety and reduced environmental impact, among others, the facts contradict these claims.

Injuries to high profile professional football players have prompted the NFLPA to urge the NFL to follow the lead of the FIFA World Cup soccer championship, which requires a grass playing field.

Synthetic turf also causes injuries to young athletes.

A groundbreaking study, The dark side of artificial greening: Plastic turfs as widespread pollutants of aquatic environments, has unearthed some disturbing revelations on the use of artificial turf, which has become a pervasive fixture on sports fields and playgrounds. This comprehensive study, prominently featured in the Environmental Pollution (June 2023) journal, has cast a spotlight on the dire consequences of plastic fibers from artificial turf, which are wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems.

River transport and stormwater runoff can carry plastics and microplastics into waterways. Once they make their way into the water, these fibers pose a menacing threat to marine life, leading to a host of health issues and, tragically, even mortality. The fibers also accumulate in sediments, compromising the overall health of aquatic ecosystems. Immediate intervention is needed to tackle artificial turf pollution, including enhanced waste management practices to staunch the plastic fibers from entering aquatic habitats.

Communities discussing synthetic versus natural turf are faced with issues that go to safety, environmental health, and cost. The chemicals used to manage synthetic turf for bacteria, mold, and fungus raise serious health issues and represent a threat that does not exist in organic land management. A builder of sports facilities, American Athletic, states, “Beyond surface cleaning, the artificial turf should be sanitized weekly or monthly to protect the players’ and coaches’ health. This disinfection requires special solvents, cleansers, and anti-microbial products to remove invisible particles and bacterial growth. You should strive to sanitize the field after every game and throughout the school day if it’s used for physical education classes.”

Artificial fields can cost over $1 million for both the field installation, drainage system, and any additional costs for water treatment for an approximately ten-year lifespan, not including the game-day and ongoing maintenance costs. Manufacturers also recommend watering the synthetic fields during hot weather because of the heat generated by the artificial material. Studies record maximum surface temperatures on synthetic fields during hot, sunny conditions averaging from 140° F to 170° F, while natural grass is rarely recorded to be above 100° F.

When all the synthetic turf issues are considered, including chemical use, maintenance, heat effects, water contamination and treatment, playability and safety, organic grass turf offers an improvement in every way. Organic management practices build soil health, cycle nutrients naturally, enhance turf resiliency, reduce water use, and do not use petrochemical pesticides or fertilizers.

Please ensure that our community’s playing fields are made of natural grass maintained organically.

Thank you.

Letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

I support the request of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) or a return to natural turf on playing fields. Besides the issue of safety for players, artificial turf is a source of environmental pollution that is difficult to mitigate.

Although manufacturers of artificial turf tout supposed benefits, claiming improved safety and reduced environmental impact, among others, there are reasons to believe otherwise. Although manufacturers and advocates of artificial turf tout its benefits, claiming improved safety and reduced environmental impact, among others, the facts contradict these claims.

Injuries to high profile professional football players have prompted the NFLPA to urge the NFL to follow the lead of the FIFA World Cup soccer association, which requires a grass playing field.

A groundbreaking study, The dark side of artificial greening: Plastic turfs as widespread pollutants of aquatic environments, has unearthed some disturbing revelations on the use of artificial turf, which has become a pervasive fixture on sports fields and playgrounds. This comprehensive study, prominently featured in the Environmental Pollution (June 2023) journal, has cast a spotlight on the dire consequences of plastic fibers from artificial turf, which are wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems.

River transport and stormwater runoff can carry plastics and microplastics into waterways. Once they make their way into the water, these fibers pose a menacing threat to marine life, leading to a host of health issues and, tragically, even mortality. The fibers also accumulate in sediments, compromising the overall health of aquatic ecosystems. The authors of the study call for immediate intervention to tackle artificial turf pollution. The study authors indicate that plastic fields require enhanced waste management practices to staunch the plastic fibers from entering aquatic habitats.

Artificial fields can cost over $1 million for both the field installation, drainage system, and any additional costs for water treatment for an approximately ten-year lifespan, not including the game-day and ongoing maintenance costs. Manufacturers also recommend watering the synthetic fields during hot weather because of the heat generated by the artificial material. Studies record maximum surface temperatures on synthetic fields during hot, sunny conditions averaging from 140° F to 170° F, while natural grass is rarely recorded to be above 100° F.

The chemicals used to manage synthetic turf for bacteria, mold, and fungus raise serious health issues and represent a threat that does not exist in organic land management. A builder of sports facilities, American Athletic, states, “Beyond surface cleaning, the artificial turf should be sanitized weekly or monthly to protect the players’ and coaches’ health. This disinfection requires special solvents, cleansers, and anti-microbial products to remove invisible particles and bacterial growth. You should strive to sanitize the field after every game and throughout the school day if it’s used for physical education classes.”

When all the synthetic turf issues are considered, including chemical use, maintenance, heat effects, water contamination and treatment, playability and safety, organic grass turf offers an approach that checks all the critical boxes for protecting health and the environment at a competitive price. Organic management practices build soil health, cycle nutrients naturally, enhance turf resiliency, reduce water use, and do not use petrochemical pesticides or fertilizers. While FIFA guidelines for grass turf do not mandate organic management, they provide a standard for construction and maintenance to which organic practices can be applied.

Therefore, I request that you require NFL playing fields to be grass turf that is transitioned to organic management.

Thank you.

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One Response to “Sports World Rejects Synthetic Turf, Favors Natural Grass as Organic Offers Safe Alternative”

  1. 1
    Kathleen Michels Says:

    thank you! mich appreciate the information

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