Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Barclay is already 'hurting children'

From what I understand, today at the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education meeting today, Board Member Christopher Barclay voted in favor of installing artificial turf at Walter Johnson High School, in Bethesda, MD.

By doing so he voted to expose our children to the material that makes up tires. That is what artificial turf is made of. Here is the text from FieldTurfTarkett:

"The cryogenic rubber is recycled rubber, frozen and shattered, creating smooth-sided spherical particles."

Non-profit Environment and Human Health, Inc. studied the artificial turf material. Here is their report in part (bold text my own).

"what little testing has been done on synthetic fields shows that some synthetic turf has 7 to 8 times higher levels of some carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) than is allowed by government standards.

- We know that the testing that has been done on some synthetic turf shows that it contains lead, arsenic and zinc.

- We know that some synthetic turf is treated with various anti-microbials, which also have their set of health issues.

- We know that there has not been enough testing or public health evaluation studies on synthetic turf fields to determine whether some of them pose a health problem for children. There are many important public health questions that should be answered before these expensive synthetic fields are purchased and installed. "

This material will be degrading over its 8-10 year lifespan and will be washed away into our creeks and streams, ground water, and ultimately, into the Chesapeake Bay.

So, Mr. Barclay, I wouldn't be too worried about 'hurting children.' You decided to do that today when you voted in favor of the artificial turf.

Here's some additional information from their study from Environment and Human Health, Inc., for those that are interested:

"The four compounds found in the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station study, conclusively identified with confirmatory tests, were: benzothiazole; butylated hydroxyanisole; n-hexadecane; and 4-(t-octyl) phenol. Approximately two dozen other chemicals were indicated at lower levels. Chemicals are tested for their potential as cancer-causing agents (carcinogens), their capability of causing mutations (mutagenicity), and their capability of producing fetal malformation (teratogenicity). The four chemicals found have the following reported actions:
Benzothiazole: Skin and eye irritation, harmful if swallowed. There is no available data on cancer, mutagenic toxicity, teratogenic toxicity, or developmental toxicity.

Butylated hydroxyanisole: Recognized carcinogen, suspected endocrine toxicant, gastrointestinal toxicant, immunotoxicant (adverse effects on the immune system), neurotoxicant (adverse effects on the nervous system), skin and sense-organ toxicant. There is no available data on cancer, mutagenic toxicity, teratogenic toxicity, or developmental toxicity.

n-hexadecane: severe irritant based on human and animal studies. There is no available data on cancer, mutagenic toxicity, teratogenic toxicity, or developmental toxicity.

4-(t-octyl) phenol: corrosive and destructive to mucous membranes. There is no available data on cancer, mutagenic toxicity, teratogenic toxicity, or developmental toxicity.

The exposure potential on a soccer field could be quite large. A square foot of field with between two and three inches if "in-fill" could contain between 11 and 15 pounds of tire crumbs.

Another health hazard from synthetic turf fields with rubber tire "crumbs" is heat. Stuart Graffin, of Columbia's Center for Climate Systems Research, determined that the temperatures present on playing fields with tire crumbs during the summer could approach 160 degrees F.
David Brown, Sc.D., EHHI's public health toxicologist, said, "It is clear the recycled rubber crumbs are not inert, nor is a high temperature or severe solvent extraction needed to release metals, volatile organic compounds or semi-volatile organic compounds. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station study conclusively demonstrates that the tire crumbs and tire mulch release chemical compounds into the air and ground water. Thus, tire crumbs constitute a chemical exposure for humans and the environment."


  1. The vote on the artificial turf proposal for Walter Johnson High School was:

    For: Barclay, Brandman, O'Neill, Docca, Kauffman

    Against: Berthiaume

    Absent: Navarro

  2. A friend went to the BOE mtg today. Much pressure from sports organizations to extend the playing time. Thus, the artificial turf. Of course, there are a multitude of other issues not addressed at all (health, toxics, heat, stormwater run-off, life-cycle and disposal costs). Proponents say artificial turf is more “environmental” by pointing out that you don’t need to use all of the water, pesticides and fertilizers that you do on the natural stuff. The irony is you need to water the artificial field to keep the excessive heat down.
    ANd as for pesticides and fertilizers we should follow Branford, Connecticut’s example:
    From BeyondPesticides.org
    Connecticut Town A Model For Managing Playing Fields Without Use of Pesticides
    Propelled by legislation prohibiting pesticides use on school grounds, Branford, Connecticut has become a model for others around the country in managing town playing fields, parks and public lawns without using pesticides. The town's Parks and Recreation Department's remarkable success in implementing an organic land management approach has resulted in healthier turf and lower maintenance costs. In late January 2009 the town is expected to pass a resolution to ensure their commitment to the organic turf program.
    Alex Palluzzi, Jr., director of the Branford Parks and Recreation Department, says he once was "on the other side" but now is motivated by the results he sees with organic and wants to get others to do the same. The town's organic program took off when a two-acre park was donated to the town and Mr. Palluzzi and his team began a pilot project converting the field to organic. Its success proved to Mr. Palluzzi that organic land management works. Now, all twenty-four of the town's fields are maintained with organic practices.
    "We have not used pesticides in years," says Mr. Palluzzi. Instead, the town relies on properly aerating the soil, overseeding, mowing the turf high, adding compost and testing the soil. One reason the organic program is so cost effective is because the town collects residents' leaves for its compost and mulch.
    Chuck Sherwood, field maintenance subcontractor for the Parks and Recreation Department, told a local newspaper, "When you put down this organic matter, we simply [find] you don't need pesticides and these other fertilizers. With synthetics you are creating an artificial environment and when you lay down pesticides you are knocking out beneficial organisms too... Organics has become the better value." Organic turf management results in healthier soils, which produce thicker turf, disease resistance, less soil compaction and a softer playing field. Mr. Sherwood goes on to say that, "You have much healthier root systems that can sustain the repeated us."
    In spring 2008, the town of Greenwich, Connecticut also passed a policy banning the use of pesticides on all of its athletic fields. Throughout the country there has been a growth in the pesticide-free movement. The passage of pesticide-free public land policies are very promising.


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