HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS IN SYNTHETIC TURF
By William Crain and Junfeng
City College of New York and Department of Environmental
Occupational Health, the School of
Public Health, the University of
Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
and Rutgers University.
generation of synthetic turf is becoming popular in the U.S.
Brands such as
FieldTurf are springier than the old AstroTurf and feel
more like real grass.
They also promise low maintenance costs. New
York City is so attracted to the
new synthetic turf that it is
installing it in 79 parks, often substituting
it for natural soil and
However, the new artificial grass
raises health concerns. In
particular, the base of FieldTurf and similar
brands includes recycled
rubber pellets that could contain harmful chemicals.
What’s more, we
have observed that on many New York City fields, the rubber
are also present on the surface. When one of us (William Crain)
picking up some pellets by hand, a boy told him that after playing
the park, he finds the pellets in his shoes at home at night.
the rubber pellets are much more accessible to children and
than we had supposed, we decided to analyze a sample for two
sets of toxicants — polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and
We collected our first sample from a new FieldTurf
Manhattan’s Riverside Park in May, 2006. To gain information on
reliability of our results, we gathered a second sample in June,
from a different part of the park.
The PAHs were extracted in a
Soxhlet apparatus with organic solvents.
The metals were extracted by means
of nitric acid with the aid of a
high-efficiency microwave oven (Marsx
Microwave). Both methods were
used to estimate the maximum amounts of the
chemicals contained in the
bulk material (rubber pellets). The analyses were
conducted at the
Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute of
The PAH results for our first sample are listed as
Sample 1 in Table
1, below. As the table shows, six PAHs were above the
levels that the New York State Department of
Conservation (DEC) considers sufficiently hazardous to public
to require their removal from contaminated soil sites (2). It
highly likely that all six PAHs are carcinogenic to humans.
results for Sample 2 are also listed in the table. Although
levels in Samples 1 and 2 varied somewhat, the
results for Sample 2
replicated the finding that the concentration
levels of the six PAHs are
above the DEC’s tolerable levels for
1. Concentrations of PAHs (ppm*)
……… Sample 2 ……. DEC
FieldTurf …… Contaminated
Rubber Pellets . Soil Limits
………… 1.26 ……….. 1.0
………… 7.55 ……….. 1.0
………… 2.19 ……….. 1.0
Benzo(a)pyrene ……. 8.58 …………
3.56 ……….. 1.0
* ppm = parts per
analyses also revealed levels of zinc in both samples that exceed
tolerable levels. Lead and arsenic also were present, and
believe that these metals should not be introduced
into the environment at
We want to emphasize that the findings are preliminary. PAHs in
might not act the same way as in soil, and we do not yet
information on the ease with which the PAHs in these rubber
might be absorbed by children or adults — by ingestion,
or absorption through the skin. However, the findings are
Until more is known, it wouldn’t be prudent to install the
turf in any more parks.
We have informed the New York City
Parks Department of our findings,
but as far as we know, the Parks Department
has not altered its plans
to continue the installation of FieldTurf in
** William Crain, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at
College of New York and president of Citizens for a Green
Park. Junfeng (Jim) Zhang, Ph.D. is professor and acting
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, the School
Public Health, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New
and Rutgers University.
(1) New Yorkers for
Parks. A New Turf War: Synthetic Turf in New York
City’s Parks — Special
Report, Spring 2006. www.NY4P.org
(2) 6 NYCRR Part 375, Environmental
Remediation Program, Draft
Revised June 14, 2006, Department of Environmental
Table 375-6.8 (a) and (b).
Return to Table of
lawn services on municpal parks and fields – I’d love to see a side-by-side
comparison on them vs this fake-turf.
The analyses also revealed levels of zinc in both samples
the DEC’s tolerable levels. Lead and arsenic also were present,
many scientists believe that these metals should not be
into the environment at all.
__._,_.___Posted by Susan Harris on March 30, 2007 at 5:18 am, in the category Uncategorized.