A Tired Topic?

Readers of Turfhugger.com know that I'm a fan of any attempt to conserve water, the reduction of pesticides and fertilizers. Although I'm interested in the concept of artificial turf from this perspective, I do have some concerns over leaching and exposure of possible toxins, read up on past Artificial Turf articles here.

A while ago I came upon some studies conducted by Environment and Human Health Inc out of North Haven Connecticut USA. The EHHI are "dedicated to protecting human health from environmental harms through research, education and promotion of sound public policy". I've read through their report called Artificial Turf: Exposures to Recycled Tire Crumbs Used on Synthetic Turf Fields, Playgrounds and as Mulch, and it offers quite a bit of insight into the products.

Here's a summary of the report from EHHI:
  • The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station study conclusively demonstrates that the tire crumbs and tire mulch release chemical compounds into the air and ground water. Thus, tire crumbs constitute a chemical exposure for humans and the environment.
  • It is clear that the recycled rubber crumbs are not inert, nor is a high-temperature or severe solvent extraction needed to release metals, volatile organic compounds, or semi-volatile organic compounds. The release of airborne chemicals and dust is well established by the current information. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station research conclusively demonstrates that release can occur under ambient conditions experienced in the summer in Connecticut.
  • Those published health assessments that indicate de minimis risk should not be applied to the synthetic turf paradigm and may not be appropriate for playgrounds with open layers of recycled tire crumbs.
  • Health endpoints of concern are numerous, including acute irritation of the lungs, skin, and eyes, and chronic irritation of the lung, skin, and eyes. Knowledge is somewhat limited about the effects of semi-volatile chemicals on the kidney, endocrine system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, developmental effects and the potential to induce cancers.
  • There are still data gaps that need to be filled in and additional studies are warranted.
  • It is prudent to conclude that there will be human exposures to chemicals released during the use of synthetic turf fields.
  • The excess amount of zinc in the rubber tire mulch makes it unacceptable to be used in gardens.
Obviously there are reasons for concern over the products mentioned in the report and I can't imagine they'll be around much longer with this kind of press. I am unaware of artificial turf that does not use the "recycled tire crumb" as a base, if you know of any please post a link in the comments section.

Here's a video of Dr David Smith from the EHHI talking about issues related to synthetic turf. Very informative, however there is, of course, the other side of the arguement.