Tests Detect Dangerous PFAS Chemicals in Portsmouth’s New Synthetic Turf Field

Independent testing of new artificial field confirm PFAS chemicals present in products

Independent testing of the new artificial turf field installed by the Community Campus shows that toxics known as PFAS contaminate the turf, shock pad, and backing of the plastic field. PFAS have been linked to numerous health problems from immune suppression to cancer. Here on the Seacoast, in the middle of a pediatric cancer cluster, we have become acutely aware of the danger of these “forever chemicals.”

The field testing was commissioned by the local citizen’s group Non Toxic Portsmouth. Last summer, the group, alongside Dr. Graham Peaslee, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame and one of the world’s top experts in detecting PFAS, personally urged the Portsmouth City Council to conduct independent testing of the synthetic turf product before installation. This warning was after lab tests had already found PFAS in Portsmouth High School’s ten-year-old Tom Daubney Field. In the letter to the Portsmouth City Council, disclosing the finding of PFAS at the high school field, Jeff Gearhart, MS, Research Director for the nonprofit Ecology Center advised, “A company claiming PFAS-free turf fiber should…be able to produce testing results showing less than 1 part per million of total organic fluorine or total fluorine.”

A motion to commission independent total fluorine testing was denied after the City Council had already approved the purchase of the new plastic field on a 5-4 vote. However, the City Council did stipulate that the new field must be “PFAS free”.  The City’s Request for Proposals did require that the new field be PFAS free, but despite the science and the experts’ recommendations, the city did not require independent testing. In the end the contractor tested for only 30 types of the thousands of PFAS chemicals and provided a letter from the manufacturer FieldTurf stating that it’s product is PFAS free and contains no fluorine.  In spite of no proof of being PFAS free the city spent $1.6 million and put the field in anyway. 

Non Toxic Portsmouth was able to obtain virgin samples of all of the new field’s components and had them independently tested under the guidance of the Ecology Center. The test results clearly indicate the presence of PFAS and directly contradict a statement by the manufacturer FieldTurf, that their “supplier has confirmed that their products are free of…fluorine.” Yet our independent testing showed a range of 119 ppm to 16 ppm of fluorine.

When presented with the results of this recent testing Dr. Peaslee said, “These total fluorine measurements are typical for plastics that have been manufactured with PFAS-based polymer processing aids – which will leave residues of these PFAS at the part-per-million level on the artificial grass. 3M sells these PFAS-based products and their sales brochure lists artificial grass as one of their applications, so they are definitely used within the artificial turf industry.” Dr. Peaslee directs a research program in applied nuclear science to screen for chemicals of concern in our built environment and to measure how these chemicals are dispersed in the natural environment. 

The night that the Portsmouth City Council gave final approval to new synthetic turf fields, some residents spoke in favor of them based on the promise that the new fields would be a PFAS free product. 

“Despite the assurances from city consultants and management, our kids will again be playing on a field containing PFAS,” observed Ted Jankowski of Non Toxic Portsmouth. “We have just installed this new multi-million dollar field that we were promised would be PFAS free, but our test results reveal it’s clearly not. The City Council too should demand financial accountability. We could have put in four state of the art natural turf fields for the cost of this one 100 ton plastic field.”

PFAS are not the only toxic chemicals found in synthetic turf. Plastics have been found to contain thousands of harmful compounds. Runoff from this new field runs directly into the newly constructed regional stormwater system and then into Sagamore Creek. Some of these chemicals can accumulate in humans and animals, like PFAS, and hundreds of them can be harmful even in small doses. We wonder – are these chemicals now leaching into Sagamore Creek?  

Diana Carpinone of Non Toxic Dover believes that, “These new test results support the position of our resident advocacy groups that organic natural grass fields are the safest choice for our Seacoast communities.”

View the 3M guide to fluoropolymer-based polymer processing aids – page 11 lists one application for these PFAS additives as artificial grass.

Read about the testing method used – GLI Method Summary

About NonToxicDoverNH

Advocating for safe and healthy public spaces for Dover, New Hampshire residents.
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1 Response to Tests Detect Dangerous PFAS Chemicals in Portsmouth’s New Synthetic Turf Field

  1. Pingback: Multiple PFAS Found in Portsmouth’s “PFAS-free” Synthetic Turf Field | Non Toxic Dover, New Hampshire

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