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Synthetic turf - is it safe?

By Valerie Clarke

As a concerned parent of three children in the Fayetteville-Manlius school district, I would like to examine the issue of synthetic turf and pose the question as to whether or not it is a safe material to install on playing fields at schools.

Many school districts have installed synthetic turf. Other school districts are considering doing so. In this part of the country, one of the main impetuses is the climate. Synthetic turf is touted as being superior to natural grass turf because it dries out quickly and does not have the mud component of natural grass.

Historically, the first synthetic turf on the market was the original Astro Turf. Due to the unforgiving nature of its composition, this synthetic turf was superseded by Field Turf, which was patented in the mid-80s.

The unique nature of Field Turf can be attributed to the rubber infill component, comprising 90 percent of the field by weight, which is a loose material that is worked down into the base of the artificial grass blades to enhance both traction and shock absorption. Proponents of Field Turf suggest that playing on this surface results in fewer player injuries than natural grass and Astro turf.

Recently, the safety regarding children's exposure to this type of synthetic turf has come into question.

Specifically, it is the composition of the rubber infill that has raised an alarm. The concern arises from the fact that the rubber infill is made from recycled car tires, ground up to the size of coarse sand, commonly referred to as "tire crumbs."

Parents have reported that their children come home covered in tire crumbs. Crumbs have been found in the hair, clothing and shoes after playing on it. These parents began asking the question, "Is this a safe material for our children?"

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