Are Synthetic Turf Playing Fields a Good Choice for Dover?

Recently, Foster’s Daily Democrat reported on the plan to replace Dover High School’s natural grass football field with an artificial field with encapsulated tire crumb rubber infill. It has been added to the school budget and will likely be completed by spring 2019. They state that, “The new artificial field will remain in the same spot as the current grass field and will cost around $1 million.”

While the turf industry says their products are ‘safe’, we know that tires contain  carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disrupting chemicals. Children playing on these surfaces are exposed through inhalation, direct contact/skin absorption and accidental ingestion.

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The EPA has been conducting research into the question of toxicity of tire crumb rubber, but the jury is still out as to the safety of these synthetic turf playing fields. To date, no epidemiological studies have been conducted on the long term health outcomes of people exposed to crumb rubber infill and synthetic turf playing fields. We do know that children are especially vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemical exposure, even very low levels can have a detrimental and permanent effect.

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Based upon the presence of known toxic substances in tire rubber and the lack of comprehensive safety studies, The Children’s Environmental Health Center of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai urges a moratorium on the use of artificial turf generated from recycled rubber tires.

Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at UMass Lowell has identified organically managed grass as a safer alternative to synthetic playing fields.

There is little question in the mind of many scientists and physicians that crumb rubber should not be a first choice material for children to play on. Parents should be able to enjoy watching their children playing sports and not worry that they are being put at risk unnecessarily.

In addition to the hazards posed by toxic chemical exposure from crumb rubber and other infills, synthetic turf playing fields have other health concerns. For instance burns and heat related illness are due to higher temperatures on artificial turf, as well as an increased incidence of skin abrasions with potential for serious infection. Also to be considered are environmental concerns like the heat island effect, water quality and aquatic toxicity from runoff, particle migration (pollution from infill and turf like that of mircoplastics/microbeads), and effects on wildlife and other ecosystems.

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Cost is also a factor, synthetic turf costs significantly more to install, in this case $1 million dollars, and must be replaced and disposed of in a landfill when it reaches the end of its useful life. A synthetic football or soccer field is expected to cost $3 million dollars over a 20 year period. Natural grass fields (which we already have) when maintained on an organic program are cost saving long term.

Given these issues and more, it’s clear that installation of a synthetic field is in direct conflict with Dover’s recent Organic Land Management resolution and with the city’s Sustainable Dover initiative. 

Please click here to contact the city council and Joint Building Committee to let them know you oppose the installation of a synthetic turf playing field at the high school.

Learn more about the comparison between artificial turf and organic grass playing fields by watching the recording of a free workshop we co-hosted with Non Toxic Portsmouth, Eldredge Lumber and the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper. Presentations by Rachel Massey, Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) University of Massachusetts, Lowell and Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics.




About NonToxicDoverNH

Advocating for safe and healthy public spaces for Dover, New Hampshire residents.
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