Expert Doctor on Children’s Health Raises Alarm on Synthetic Turf

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Dr. Philip Landrigan is a respected pediatrician and expert on children’s health at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in NYC. He has written a letter (7/21/08) urging a moratorium and raising alarming concerns on artificial turf to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

No word on whether this same letter has been sent to the NYC Department of Health or NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe (who seems to have a difficult time reversing course no matter how stunning the evidence). NYC, under Commissioner Benepe’s direction, has installed 94 artificial turf fields thus far in parks and ball fields. Despite concerns, plans move forward to install 68 additional turf fields across New York City.

Dr. Landrigan writes:

Synthetic turf fields have proliferated in recent years, and there are now more than several hundred of these installations in Connecticut and in other states up and down the East Coast. Almost no assessment of the potential hazards to children’s health of synthetic turf fields was undertaken before these fields were constructed. The stated need for their installation was a desire to improve the quality and enhance the drainage of playing fields coupled with a strong impetus to get more kids out and exercising as a way to combat the obesity epidemic.

These are laudable goals. The problem is that they were pursued without any consideration of alternatives or analysis of potential negative consequences. There was insufficient due diligence. The result now is that we are in a situation in which a number of these very expensive fields have been installed, and we are suddenly and belatedly beginning to realize that they may lead to health problems.

His recommendation is as follows:

1. A moratorium on installation of new synthetic turf fields until a careful, competent, independent study of their potential hazards has been conducted and reported to the public;

2. Immediate study of the suspected chemical hazards of synthetic turf fields.

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Dr. Landrigan’s Full Letter Outlining His Concerns Follows: (more…)

On Artificial Turf —

The entry below was taken from a July 9th post here at Washington Square Park Blog on artificial turf. Although the Parks Department insists there is a new and better version they are using, it’s still questionable. As reported in Wednesday’s (12/10) entry, the Parks Department wants to place artificial turf around the Mounds (southwestern area) at Washington Square Park.

As you’ll read below, the New York Daily News reports the results of testing done by NYC Park Advocates. Upon testing some of the “new” turf at Macomb Dams Park (one of the Parks in the Bronx obliterated and split into pieces to pave the way – literally – for Yankee Stadium), the organization found it still reached 160 degrees. In the meantime, I am looking into this “new” “not infill rubber” material to get some other feedback on it. At the time of this entry, artificial turf had been placed in 94 locations across New York City. … Entry follows

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In the July 5th NY Daily News, Jeff Wilkins and Elizabeth Hays report: “Artificial turf installed in city fields can heat up to a blistering 162 degrees even on a mild summer day, a Daily News investigation has found.” This is twice as high as the temperature of natural grass.

The writers encountered 9 year old Yannick Pena at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx after he walked on the artificial turf there. He said, “My feet are burning! I had to dump cold water on my shoes just to walk around.”

Other than the heat, there are other problems: “Earlier this year, The News reported concerns that the millions of tiny crumbs contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium, as well as volatile organic compounds and other chemicals.”

Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh said the city would begin using a “carpet-style turf” and “plans to stop using the crumb-rubber infill because of excessive heat.”

However, in testing a field at Macombs Dam Park that has the “new turf,” The Daily News found that it also registered “as high as 160 degrees.”

In the July 9th Metro NY, Patrick Arden reports new signs are now appearing in the NYC parks and ballfields that contain artificial turf. The signs state:

This field can get hot on warm, sunny days. If you experience symptoms of heat-related illness, such as dizziness, weakness, headache, vomiting, or muscle cramps, move to a shaded area. Drink water, rest, and seek medical attention if you do not feel better.

Metro’s investigation, also with the assistance of NYC Park Advocates, backed up the Daily News report: “One day last month, the artificial turf at Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza was 165.5 degrees, while a nearby plot of grass measured just 83 degrees. Waves of heat rose from the field.”

Will the Parks Department follow the logical route and abandon their turf dream of installing these substances in 68 more locations? All evidence points to the contrary.

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A longer version of this post originally appeared July 9th, 2008: “NYC Parks Department Motto: Stick to the plans no matter how irrational or unwelcome they are.”