Submitted for your consideration, enclosed please find two articles from this past Sunday (09/16/07) – The Sunday New York Times and TheDay.com. I specifically call your attention to the piece written by Dr. Brown of the Environment and Human Health Institute in Hartford (item No. 1 below). The anthology below also contains an article entitled “Beckham’s Lament: The Pains and Strains of Playing on Infilled Turf,” in which the author reviews players’ recent gripes about artificial turf and how turf contributes to foot-fixation injuries and other strains on joints and ligaments.
Very cordially yours,
1. Turf Wars: Debate continues on safety of fake grass
Note:The author, David Brown, has a doctor of science degree and is a public health toxicologist. Also contributing to this article were John Wargo, Ph.D. Yale University, and Nancy Alderman, who has a master's degree in environmental studies. All three are active in the group Environment and Human Health, Inc. 'Although the health implications are unclear, the evidence is sufficient to create a burden of proof of safety before more fields are installed. Therefore, EHHI stands by its recommendation that no new fields that contain ground up rubber tire crumbs be installed until additional research is been done.'
Environment and Human Health Inc. is a 10-member, non-profit organization composed of physicians, public health professionals and policy experts. It is dedicated to protecting human health from environmental harms through research, education and improving public policy.
The group has authored this article in response to “Turf testing a waste of time, money,” which appeared in The Day Sept. 6 and was written by assistant sports editor Mike Dimauro. The article shows a misunderstanding of the health issues and the source of EHHI's concern.
The “synthetic turf” fields are not turf in any sense of the word, but are large surfaces the size of football fields, covered with material derived from grinding up used rubber tires until they are the size of grains of course sand.
In terms of weight, there are tons of ground-up rubber tire crumbs on each field. There is no barrier between the rubber crumbs and the athletes playing on the fields. The rubber crumbs are unstable and get into the shoes, stockings and clothing of those who play on the fields. Dust particles from these crumbs are easily inhaled.
Numerous studies have been cited in the past to justify the safety of the rubber tire crumbs that constitute the major portion of synthetic turf fields. The EHHI reviewed the findings of each of these studies in preparation for its health hazard analysis. These studies consistently found that there would indeed be exposures to the components of the tire crumbs. They also found that dusts from the rubber crumbs contained carcinogens that could be inhaled into the deepest portions of the lung. Each study indicated that there were serious limitations to their research due to insufficient safety testing of some of the components released from the tire crumbs.
Both Norway and Sweden have recommended that there be no further construction of fields with rubber tire crumbs. Norway's concern is that some people are allergic to latex and latex is a component of the ground-up tires. Sweden considers the rubber crumbs to be a hazardous substance.
People are asked by the synthetic turf manufacturers to assume that the amount of exposures from the rubber crumbs — as well as exposures from the rubber crumb dust — are insufficient to produce any health effect, irrespective of the age of the child, the number of hours, days or years that a person plays on these fields. Those who promote its safety provide no measurements to support the industry's assumption.
It is clear that children will be exposed to these rubber crumbs, their dusts and their vapors on these fields. A simple exercise in arithmetic will show the scale of the number of children/hours of exposure there would be from one synthetic turf athletic field.
Each square foot of field surface has 10 or more pounds of tire crumbs. A 300-foot-long field that is 150-feet-wide is 45,000-square-feet, holding more than 450,000 pounds of ground-up rubber tire.
The typical athletic game has 25 people playing vigorously on the surface for one hour or more. If a field were used for three hours a day there would be 21 hours of activity a week. That would amount to about 2,000 children/hours of activity a month on each field. It is possible that even on a modestly utilized field, there would be over 10,000 children/hours of use per year.
To summarize, children will be exposed to recognized hazardous substances on these synthetic turf fields. Although the health implications are unclear, the evidence is sufficient to create a burden of proof of safety before more fields are installed. Therefore, EHHI stands by its recommendation that no new fields that contain ground up rubber tire crumbs be installed until additional research is been done.
2. Turf Wars
By Wiliam Crain
The New York Times
September 16, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/opinion/nyregionopinions/16NJcrain.html?ref=nyregionopinions Note: William Crain, a professor of psychology at the City College of New York, is the author of “Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented Society.”
Note: This op-ed piece appeared in the hard copy of the September 16th edition of The Sunday New York Times edition for the Connecticut region.
THIS summer three women from Westport, Conn., urged a nonprofit group in North Haven to test for hazardous materials in synthetic turf that is being placed on playing fields across their state. The results came back positive, showing that hazardous metals in the turf granules leach into water, and that at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (a temperature that synthetic turf can reach during summer), other toxic chemicals are released into the air.
Late last month, in response to the test results, Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general, pledged $200,000 of state funds to study the effects of synthetic turf on people and the environment.
This issue is not confined to Connecticut, which has at least 30 such fields. Across the country, schools and parks are replacing grass playing fields with the synthetic turf. Last year, 850 synthetic turf fields were installed in the United States — more than 150 exist in New Jersey, for example.
Like the women in Westport, a number of residents in several New Jersey towns — including Bernardsville, Flemington, Manalapan and New Providence — want local officials to call off synthetic turf installations. But in the absence of government regulations on the hazards, residents have yet to get any new installations halted.
Although synthetic turf is expensive to install, many municipalities and school districts find it appealing. It’s springier than the old AstroTurf and feels more like natural grass. It doesn’t get chopped up by players’ cleats, and it doesn’t get muddy during a rain, so it allows for more practices and games. In many suburbs, parents are raising private funds to help pay for the new turf.
But despite its appeal, synthetic turf poses serious physical and developmental problems for children. Schools and towns would be wise to avoid it.
For starters, synthetic turf contains highly toxic chemicals. The tiny rubber granules that contribute to the turf’s resiliency are primarily made from recycled tires. Because these granules often lie on the turf’s surface, children and athletes come into frequent contact with them.
Junfeng Zhang, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, has found that the granules contain worrisome levels of zinc and lead, as well aspolycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are likely to be carcinogenic. Some preliminary research by others suggests that it might be difficult for these toxic chemicals in the granules to get into the body through skin contact, ingestion or inhalation, but more research is needed.
Physical health risks aside, children increasingly grow up in sterile, artificial environments. After school, they spend much of their time indoors doing homework, watching television and sitting in front of a computer monitor. Two recent nationwide surveys have found that 6- to 12-year-olds average less than an hour a week in unstructured outdoor play.
When children do get outside, it is usually to play organized sports. Until recently, sports gave children at least some contact with nature. But now, with the widespread installation of synthetic turf fields, even this contact with nature is being reduced.
Children’s alienation from nature is not something to take lightly. A growing body of research suggests that children need contact with greenery for their mental development. Natural settings help them develop their senses and powers of observation. Nature also stimulates children’s creativity; much of their poetry and artwork, for example, is inspired by grass, trees, water, wind, birds and other animals. Furthermore, natural settings have a calming effect on children.
Grass playing fields, of course, expose children to nature to only a limited degree. When it comes to stimulating a child’s senses and imagination, playing fields don’t compare to forests. Still, a grass field can be beneficial to children, especially when adults give them time and opportunity to play in their own ways. After informal games, youngsters often relax on the field, fiddling with blades of grass, weeds and dirt. One 11-year-old told me she likes to toss blades of grass into the air and imagine they are “grass angels.” I’ve also had children tell me how much they like lying on the grass and looking up at the sky.
Lobbyists for the synthetic turf industry claim that it is natural grass that harms the environment because lawn maintenance frequently involves toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, as well as gas-powered mowers that pollute the air. They have a point, but the solution isn’t to destroy the soil and grass, as synthetic surfaces do, but instead adopt safer methods of grass care.
We’ve already sacrificed too much earth and vegetation to real-estate developments, paved roads and parking lots. We need to preserve the little nature that remains. And we need to do it for our children.
In our increasingly artificial environment, children need much greater experience with all aspects of living nature. Natural grass fields can help.
3. Beckhams’s Lament: The Pains & Strains of Playing on Infilled Turf
by Guive Mirfendereski, PhD, JD,
September 17, 2007
Note: The author is the managing editor of www.synturf.org, a citizen information and advocacy website dedicated to rooting for natural grass playing fields IN 2006, the NFL Players Playing Surfaces Opinion Survey polled a total of 1511 NFL players from all 32 teams: 64.93% of the respondents said artificial infilled turf was more likely to contribute to injury. More significantly, 73.87% of the respondents said artificial infilled surface caused more soreness and fatigue to play on. Therefore, not surprisingly, the most common player comment was “make all fields grass to prevent injury.”1
In 2006, the survey of Switzerland’s Super League soccer players revealed that 88% of the respondents did not like playing on artificial turf, citing fear of injury and greater risk of injury as the main reasons for the rejection of artificial turf. The respondents believed that the long-term consequences of artificial turf have not yet been adequately investigated.2
In 2006, a Swedish study found a higher risk of ankle sprain on artificial turf compared with grass. It concluded, however, there was no evidence of a greater risk of injury when soccer was played on artificial turf, compared with natural grass. The higher incidence of ankle sprain on artificial turf however warranted further attention, the study recommended.3 In 2005, 74% of the respondents in a survey of Norwegian professional soccer players thought artificial turf increased the danger of injuries. More significantly, a plurality of 44% of the respondents believed that continuously playing on artificial turf produced more injuries and that players must even stop playing soccer at a younger age, while 30% considered this to be perhaps true.4
David Beckham, for better or worse, is an international soccer superstar. Last month, he openly dissed FieldTurf as a playing surface. "As a professional athlete, you can't play a game like soccer on that sort of field," Beckham told reporters. "You can't ask any athlete to perform at a high level on the FieldTurf." Most significantly, Beckham said, "What it does to your body as a soccer player, you're in bits for three days after that."5
In a related story, the sportswriter Frank Dell’Apa quoted the coach of the New England Revolution as saying the Gillette Stadium’s FieldTurf has “no give in it. Grass is still the best surface."6 And earlier, in May, the coach of the major League Soccer team Chicago Fire complained about playing three games in a row on turf: "If we played on it a lot it would take its toll on our bodies.'' The turf is harder, he said, and “we try to stay off of it as much as possible.''7What is going on here? The complaint seems to be about the general effect on joints and ligaments from continuously playing on turf, resulting in an accelerated wear-and-tear. This in turn renders an athlete vulnerable to greater risk of contact or non-contact injury.
The number one factor in joint and ligament injury among athletes playing on turf is the traction of the field, ironically, a selling point for the manufacturers and promoters of the turf.8 Because artificial turf has greater traction9 than grass, it enables players to start, stop and run faster. This creates a greater torque,10 which places increased strain on the joints, which in turn “speed[s] up the point at which injury is sustained.”11 In a non-contact injury scenario, traction can be the factor in a player suffering an anterior cruciate ligament ACL tear as he makes a sharp-angle turn to complete his route. Or, similarly, a biomechanical event could cause an ACL tear in a soccer player as he plants his foot to cut or fake his opponent.12 The general term “foot fixation injury” describes knee, ankle and foot sprains and tears that “occur when the athlete’s foot remains locked on the surface while the rest of the athlete’s body continues to twist and move.”13 This kind of injury seems to occur more on artificial turf,14 because the surface has less give than natural earth-and-grass fields.
The more familiar “turf-toe injury,” generally associated with playing on artificial turf, is a sprain, dislocation or fracture of the metatarsophalangeal MP joint caused by hyperextension or hyperflexion of the MP joint in the ball of the foot. Hyperextension of the joint is intensified when an athlete’s toe slams into the end of the shoe during a sudden stop.15
According to Professor Michael Meyers at West Texas A&M University, there is more torque, more velocity and more traction on artificial turf and that can lead to more muscle strains and spasms than playing on natural grass.16 Similarly, Brad Fresenburg, turfgrass expert at the University of Missouri, believes that the greater traction obtained on artificial turf increases the potential pressure on joints and bones from the inability of a fully planted cleat-wearing foot to divot or twist out. When teams play on grass, Fresenburg sates, they leave divots and ripped out grass. While most complain about the damaged field, in reality divots mean that the field is doing its job -- yielding to the athletes' cleats.17 According to Professor Andy McNitt at Penn State University, on artificial turf, the peak happened very, very early in the traction curve … [I]f it happens very early, the joints will take most of the shock. If it happens later in the curve, as is the case with natural turf, the athlete will have time to react and have the shock taken up in the muscles instead of the joints.” The challenege of research therefore is “trying to figure out where the new infills fall: Do they act more like the old synthetic turf or do they act more like natural turf?"18
The paucity of knowledge about the risks of foot-fixation injury associated with playing on infilled fields is due in part to the “newness” of the “new genration” of artifcial turf fields. Also there is a dearth of documentation of injuries caused by infilled surfaces.19 However, reportedly, FieldTurf is involved in an injury-tracking system; the company also claims to conduct independent safety tests.20 The jury is out on non-contact/biomechanical strains and injuries associated with playing on infilled surfaces and the wear-and-tear toll that it exacts on the long-term wellness of former players. What we know most reliably about the turf surface is ironically not as much from “studies” but rather from the players’ own gripes, as voiced in surveys and interviews. So far, it seems as though turf’s much-acclaimed traction is a curse in disguise. A vigorous due diligence should precede the decision to install an infilled field. The manufacturer and installers should be required to disclose the long-term and short-term risks and likelihood of foot-fixation injury associated with the use of the product. The private or public decision- and policy-maker should require disclosure of the raw data, reports and results complied by manufacturers and installers as to injury suffered on the product. There also should be disclosure, with specificity, of the terms of manufacturer’s and installer’s warranty, and the “errors & omissions” terms of insurance policies that cover the product and workmanship. Responses like “the warranty is a standard industry warranty” or “the terms are confidential or trade secrets” are woefully inadequate. Ultimately, the decision-maker should insist on disclosure of litigation history of the manufacturer and installer, specifically, as to breach of warranty and product liability claims against them.
In terms of product liability, the absence of warning by the manufacturer or buyer as to risks and dangers of the turf, coupled with the existence of a suitable alternative to turf (i.e., natural grass), presumably makes the municipality or private institution complicit in offering a “defective” product to the player-users.21
Parents, above all, need to consider if the convenience of playing more games on a well-drained and mud-free surface outweighs exposing one’s child to down-the-road untold consequences of playing on artificial turf, such as a shortened athletic career or life-long pains and strains associated with playing on turf. There are myriad reasons why artificial turf is not a worthy substitute for natural grass, including environmental, but, for parents and public officials, a child’s wellness should come first and foremost. While physical activity and organized sports are a part of wellness, there is very little biological or physiological reason, if any, that requires play on artificial turf.22
2 “Swiss Association of Professional Footballers (SAFP) Survey,” August 2006, available at the website of the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPRO), www.fifpro.org, a players organization, http://www.fifpro.org/index.php?mod=one&id=15352&PHPSESSID=a4c9be74e1b60f14332c9e6d3fd24319 and http://www.fifpro.org/index.php?mod=one&id=15385&PHPSESSID=a4c9be74e1b60f14332c9e6d3fd24319
3 Jan Ekstrand, T. Timpka and M. Hagglund, “Risk of injury in elite football played on artificial turf versus natural grass: a perspective two-cohort study,” British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol.40:975-980 (2006), available at www.bjsportmed.com; http://www.fifa.com/documents/fifa/publication/The_risk_for_injury_when_playing_football_on_artificial_turf_versus_natural_grass.pdf; http://bjsm.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/40/12/975?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&volume=40&firstpage=975&resourcetype=HWCIT
4 Norwegian Players Union Study, “Survey on artificial turf conducted among Norwegian professional footballers,” September 2005, available at, http://www.fifpro.org/index.php?mod=one&id=14551
5 “Larry Millson, “Beckham disdains artificial surfaces: May have affected superstar’s decision not to play at BMO,” Globe & Mail, Toronto, August 9, 2007, available at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070809.BECKHAM09/TPStory/Sports.
6 Frank Dell’Apa, “Artificial turf not to Beckham’s liking,” Special to ESPNsoccernet
Updated: August 13, 2007, available at
http://soccernet.espn.go.com/columns/story?id=452763&root=mls&&cc=5901. The reporter offered the observation that “There is not enough evidence to condemn the FieldTurf, which is a great advancement from the AstroTurf which plagued sports in America for years. But there is, and never will be, evidence that FieldTurf extends careers of soccer players. Veteran players, and those returning from injuries, are likely to continue shying away from it.”
7 Dean McNulty, “Johnston in turf war: Coach not happy with Fire boss,” Toronto Sun Media, May 9, 2007, available at http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Soccer/TorontoFC/2007/05/09/4166009-sun.html.
8 See, for example, Global Sports Systems’ marketing information for Xtreme Turf: “While competitors may focus on ‘carpet specifications’ such as pile height and pile weight, we scientifically engineer our Xtreme Turf systems to maintain our ‘performance specifications,’ such as abrasion, foot stability, traction and shock absorbency.” http://www.globalsportssystems.com/products.htm. See also FieldTurf’s claim at
http://www.fieldturf.com/superbowl/downloads/Football%20Company%20and%20Product%20Overview.pdf (FieldTurf’s “open” space grass surface creates excellent traction and safer playing conditions in all weather conditions).
9 Traction is the adhesive friction of a body on some surface, as a tire on the road, or or footing on a playing surface.
10 Torque is a turning or twisting force.
11 Brian J. Duff, “Game Plan for a Successful Product Liability Action against manufacturers of Artifcial Turf,” in 5 Seton Hall Journal of Sports Law, vol. 5, 223-251 (1995), p. 230.
12 Ibid., p. 223.
13 Ibid.,, p.233 and note 99.
14 Ibid., p. 228.
15 Ibid., p. 233 and note 100.
16 University of Missouri, “Synthetic Turf Playing Fields Present Unique Dangers,” Applied Turfgrass Science, November 2, 2005, posted on Plant Management Network's website (November 3, 2005), available at
http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/pub/ats/news/2005/synthetic. Contact information for this source: Brad Fresenburg, Department of Horticulture, University of Missouri – phone: (573) 442-4893, and
Chuck Adamson [firstname.lastname@example.org], Senior Information Specialist, University of Missouri – phone: (573) 882-6843.
18Kevin Newell, “Turf going: how synthetic surface companies are striving for acceptance and safety,” Scholar Coach & Athletic Director, part 2, January 2004, available at
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FIH/is_6_73/ai_n17206509 . Naturally, in the face of wear and tear, compaction and lack of maitenance a infilled turf surface would soon emulate the hardness and super- traction charractrisitcs of old artifcial turf. Preliminary results of Penn State traction study is reported in, Andrew S. McNitt and Dianne Petrunak, The Pennsylvania State University, “Evaluation of Playing Surface Characteristics of Various In-Filled Systems,” avialble at http://cropsoil.psu.edu/mcnitt/infill6.cfm.
19 Newell, ibid.
20 Newell, ibid.
21 Duff, above note 11, pp.242-248.
22 See, generally, for example, William Crain, “Turf Wars,” The New York Times (Op-ed), Nytimes.com
N.Y. Region/Opinions, September 16, 2007. William Crain, a professor of psychology at the City College of New York, is the author of “Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented Society.” This piece appeared in the hard copy of the September 16th edition of The Sunday New York Times edition for the Connecticut region. It is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/opinion/nyregionopinions/16NJcrain.html?ref=nyregionopinions