Keeping our Sports Fields Healthy and Safe. A heated controversy has erupted over the use of synthetic turfs on athletic fields. In order to provide the healthiest environment possible for student athletes, communities should educate themselves on the risks of synthetic turf, as well as safer alternatives.
Fake Out. Synthetic turf contains rubber granules made from recycled tires. While it might initially appear like an eco-friendly alternative to the harmful pesticides and fertilizers that are typically used to achieve a well-manicured lawn, according to a growing number of sources, synthetic turf poses risks to both people and the environment.
Lead is the number one concern associated with synthetic turf, and a valid one at that. Since rubber tires contain lead, it also becomes a component of the turf, allowing for potential problems such as groundwater contamination and human lead poisoning. Furthermore, according to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station report, rubber granules exposed to the heat generated by a sunny day release carcinogenic chemicals that can irritate skin, eyes and lungs. In addition, the energy required to manufacture and ship artificial turf causes a significant output of CO2 into the environment, which could be avoided if schools used natural grass.
Pesky Pesticides. While natural grass beats synthetic turf any day, remember to avoid chemical-laden pesticides and fertilizers when caring for your lawn. Although it may seem like they make grass stronger and greener, artificial fertilizers are instead doing the exact opposite. These products weaken the natural soil system by destroying beneficial organisms, forcing grass to become dependent on synthetic chemicals. Pesticides also put the environment at risk with their potential to leak into groundwater, and they can be toxic to birds and aquatic life. Perhaps most frightening of all, however, is the possibility that pesticides can disturb the human endocrine system, leading to nerve damage and hormonal disruption.
Play it Safe. For a risk-free athletic field, opt for real grass and natural lawn-care methods. Such an approach will yield the healthiest lawn, as well as eliminate the risk of harming students and the environment.
According to Safelawns, natural, organic or slow-release fertilizers are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional pesticides. Sports fields can also be sprayed with compost tea, a liquid solution made by steeping compost in water that fertilizes grass as well as prevents plant diseases. Clippings from freshly mowed grass are also a healthy source of nutrients for an eco-friendly field.