Questions to answer before deciding to install a synthetic turf field

Require decision makers responsible for your school or community space to answer your questions about the health and safety of synthetic vs natural turf BEFORE a costly decision is made. You deserve the best surface.


The first question to answer is 'what is being done to maintain the current surface?'

Many natural grass fields are not properly maintained - leading to unsafe playing conditions - and the false impression that the field needs to be replaced rather than refurbished. Natural grass fields can be maintained at a third of the cost of installing and maintaining an artificial turf surface with any type of infill. Learn more here. 

Techniques and technology for high-quality, frequent use, low environmental impact grass fields is evolving and improving. As Turf Republic reports, "a commitment to the existing grass fields around us can meet the immediate needs for safe, quality playing fields." Grass can do this at less cost than artificial alternatives, while meeting playability needs and using innovation for durability and player safety. "Existing turfgrass managers, provided with a few tools, can produce a low-cost, environmentally friendly field."


LIST OF QUESTIONS TO ASk SYN TURF MANUFACTURERS (COSTS)

We like this University of Arkansas list of minimum questions you need answered before your community moves forward with a plastic carpet rather than a natural grass field.  Or make your own list based on what you have read in navigating the pages of the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition website. Make sure you won't be stuck paying exorbitant costs for maintenance and replacement.

  • Will the artificial turf manufacturing and installation company provide a warranty specifying the expected life of the product?

  • Will the selling firm provide a warranty bond for the life of the product? This will ensure that there is some legitimate recourse in the event of a product failure even if the seller is no longer in business. 

  • What is the longest period of time the artificial field being specified has been in use at another school, college, or university?

  • What conditions or maintenance practices will void the field’s warranty?

  • Does a single warranty cover all aspects of the artificial field’s soil base preparation, base materials, artificial turf materials, etc; will there be separate warranties and warranty voiding conditions for each element, some of which could contravene each other?

  • What is the minimum and maximum financial investment in specialized equipment that must be purchased to maintain the artificial field at a level that will provide maximum playing conditions and maintain the warranty?

  • What level of technical training is supplied, recommended, or required for the maintenance crew in order to properly maintain the area and the warranty conditions?

  • What are the warranty requirements or recommended processes to address each of the following repair or replacement demands of the artificial surface:

    • Damage caused by fire? Large and small areas.

    • Damage caused by vandalism?

    • Discoloration of areas caused by wear pattern differences?

    • Replacement of areas caused by wear or other physical or weather-related damage?

    • Liability claims?


LIST OF QUESTIONS TO ASK SYN TURF MANUFACTURERS (WARRANTY)


LIST OF QUESTIONS TO ASK SYN TURF MANUFACTURERS (HEALTH)

Here is a list of questions and things to consider from Artificial Turf: A Health-Based Consumer Guide, created by Mount Sinai's Children's Environmental Health Center:

     

    ASK the turf company:

    Are the infill materials new (“virgin”) or recycled?
    It’s possible to obtain a full ingredients list for new materials, versus recycled which vary from lot to lot. 

    What additives and coatings are used on the blades and infill such as colorants, sealants, antimicrobials, and flame retardants? Many of these may be chemicals of concern and can leach from the product!!

    What is the composition of each layer including fiber blades, infill, and backing? Although much of the focus is on infill, all components of a turf field contain potential chemicals of concern.

    Are Safety Data Sheets (SDS or MSDS) available that discuss each component? SDS or MSDS sheets are documents that contain information on potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity, and environmental) of a chemical product as well as safe handling procedures. Because manufacturers are not required to disclose all ingredients on an MSDS sheet, only those they deem to be potentially hazardous, these forms cannot be relied on as “ingredient lists.” However any turf company that you choose should be able to provide a complete list of chemical components for their product.

    Has the turf been tested under realistic play conditions for heat generation, off-gassing, and particulate matter generation? Ideally this testing has been conducted by a third party that is not a paid consultant to the turf company. At a minimum the company should be able to provide you with their own test results or those of a consultant they have hired.

    What products are required to sanitize (i.e. fungicides and antimicrobials) and clean the field and how often must they be applied? These products not only increase the likelihood of chemical exposures, they may increase maintenance costs. It’s important that manufacturers are upfront about all maintenance requirements. In addition, antimicrobials and fungicides may pose health risks for children chronically exposed to them. 

    Toxicological profiles of potential chemicals of concern can be found at: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/indexAZ.asp: The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, maintains a Toxic Substances Portal, a searchable database of chemicals that includes exposure risks and health effects.

    http://www.epa.gov/iris/ EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants. The searchable IRIS database contains information on more than 550 chemicals.

     

    Be An Educated Artificial Turf Consumer

    • Beware of greenwashing: the use of terms like “organic”, “green”, and “Eco” do not guarantee safety. In fact, those terms are not regulated for turf products, so their meaning in this context is at best ambiguous. 
    • Choose companies that are transparent and disclose all materials. Note than an MSDS sheet does NOT disclose all chemicals used in the product. To obtain complete disclosure, ask manufacturers to list all components in writing.
    • Contact the CEHC to discuss testing options and results.
    • Consider the possibility of maintaining a grass field with an underground drainage system.

     

    Other Considerations:

    • The lifespan of various turf options – how soon will it need to be replaced?
    • Are there hidden costs such as those required for disposal of crumb rubber?
    • Will the turf be indoors or outdoors? Inhalational exposures are likely to be higher indoors without proper ventilation.
    • Ecotoxicity – Chemicals from artificial turf may be toxic to wildlife. Some studies have shown that new generations of turf such as EPDM are more toxic to aquatic life than crumb rubber 
    • Siting of the field – is it in close proximity to water sources that may be contaminated by runoff?