From: Sierra Club, Safe and Healthy Playing Fields Coalition, et al (see below)
To: The Honorable Governor Larry Hogan
The Honorable Mike Busch, Speaker, Maryland House of Delegates
The Honorable Thomas V. Mike Miller, President, Maryland Senate
The Honorable Maggie McIntosh, Chair, House Appropriations Committee
The Honorable Edward Kasemeyer, Chair, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee
CC: Members of House Appropriations and Senate Budget and Taxation Committees
Delegate Aruna Miller
Senator Roger Manno
Subject: State funding for synthetic (artificial) turf and playgrounds (HB 505, SB 763)
We, the undersigned organizations and businesses, are writing to request your support for legislation to restrict the use of state funds for the construction and maintenance of synthetic surfaces (fields and playgrounds) and instead prioritize state-of-the-art natural surface materials to build playgrounds and fields.
While we appreciate the arguments that drove past support for synthetic surfaces, a growing set of data is revealing that synthetic surfaces endanger public health and the environment as well as proving to be a poor use of public funds. This new information is cause to reconsider the state’s support for this approach.
We urge your support for HB 505 (Delegate Aruna Miller) and SB 763 (Senator Roger Manno), which would prohibit the use of state funds that largely have come in the form of Program Open Space, matching grants, and bond bills, for these purposes.
What is synthetic turf?
Plastic synthetic turf is a urethane-backed carpet of colored plastic “blades” on top of a foundation of rocks with soil removed. The plastic contains toxic chemicals such as heavy metals, phthalates, UV inhibitors, colorants, and flame retardants. Typically, synthetic turf has 30,000 to 50,000 pulverized used tires added for cushioning impacts from falls. This tire crumb waste contains even more toxic substances, including heavy metals such as lead and mercury, benzothiazoles, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon black, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene. Many of these substances are known carcinogens, neurotoxins or endocrine disruptors. Playgrounds made of synthetic surfaces use shredded tire bound with glue, and present many of the same problems.
Growing Safety Concerns
Safety is a constant concern with synthetic surfaces. Issues include hazardous over-heating, unexpected failure of infill to cushion (hardness hazard), sanitation problems, and injuries including increased skin abrasions and more frequent joint injury to knees and ankles.
Known Environmental Risk
Synthetic surfaces also encourage poor environmental practices.Despite many claims from the industry that this is a “green” or “recycled” product, it is not. With the growing number of used tires, combined with the prohibition for their disposal in landfills, new markets for this hazardous waste product emerge. However, using old tires in playing fields and playgrounds is not real recycling. It just brings the landfill to the playing field for a time, spreading toxins into the environment and into people, before eventually heading back to the landfill.
Other environmental concerns include leaching of toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the ground and water along with with micro debris plastic pollution from the weathering carpet and tire crumb in-fill. The frequent replacement carpets are a wasteful use of virgin petroleum- based plastic when a renewable resource (natural grass) is available. Other problems include use of harsh chemicals to disinfect the plastic carpets (a public safety concern), and the heat-island effect along with excess water use to cool down hazardously hot fields on warm sunny days.
There are viable alternatives
Promises of limited maintenance costs, durability and availability for year round use, and reduced need for pesticides and fertilizers initially made synthetic surfaces a popular material for playgrounds and fields. However, as this generation of infilled synturf field’s and playgrounds limitations become apparent, and as they fail and must be replaced at high cost, it is a good time to pause and review the alternatives.
Much progress has been made in the cost, quality, and durability of natural grass turf. The current state-of-the-art of grass sports fields limit or eliminate chemical inputs while becoming more durable and playable in most conditions. They are also cost-effective. The environmental benefits of grass surfaces are the opposite of the environmental harms of synturf, they filter water, oxygenate the air and provide safe, softer, practical, sustainable, and healthy surfaces to play on. Wood fiber playgrounds are also best for fall protection and are ADA compliant when installed correctly.
We shouldn’t experiment with our children’s health!
Indications of negative health repercussions that mainly target children outweigh the promised but overhyped benefits of synthetic surfaces. Many of the chemicals in synthetic surfaces are known to be toxic to children at any levels. For example, the industry acknowledges, that the dangerous heavy metal, lead, is found in dust from the fields. There is NO safe level of lead for child exposure according to the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics. In another example, clusters of blood cancers in athletes who spend the most time on artificial turf with tire waste infill have been reported (they represent the ‘canaries on the sports field”). Concussions have also been linked to the fact that these surfaces soon become too hard.
With mounting evidence of health, environmental, and economic risk associated with synthetic surfaces, it is irresponsible to continue to use taxpayer dollars to construct fields, regardless of any purported advantage. We can and must use the principle of precaution when our children’s health, safety and future are at stake. Thank you for your consideration.
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environment
Katie Huffling, Executive Director
Audubon Naturalist Society
Eliza Cava, Director of Conservation
Eco-Healthy Child Care
Kristie Trousdale, Deputy Director, Children’s Environmental Health Network
Kids In Danger
Nancy Cowles, Executive Director
Maryland Environmental Health Network
Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, Executive Director
Emily Scarr, Director
MOM’s Organic Market
Alixandra (Ali) DySard, Environmental & Partnership Manager
Montgomery Countryside Alliance
Caroline Taylor, Ex. Director
Moms Clean Air Force
Elizabeth Brandt, DC Area Field Organizer
Montgomery County Civic Federation
Peggy Dennis, Past President
Montgomery County Green Democrats
Sheldon Fishman, President
One Montgomery Green
Wendy Howard, Executive Director
Rachel Carson Council
Safe Grow Montgomery
Ling Tan, Steering Committee Member
Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition
Diana Conway, Board Member
Sylvia Diss, Co-Chair
Sierra Club Maryland Chapter
Josh Tulkin, Director
The Woman’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County
Ginger Macomber, WDC Advocacy Committee Co-Chair and Board Member
Trash Free Maryland
Ashley Van Stone, Executive Director
West Montgomery County Citizens Association (WMCCA)
Ginny Barnes, President
The Women’s Alliance for Democracy and Justice
Toni Evans, Jean Gearon, Chris Lock