[No. 18] Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Alternative Infills for Artificial Turf Fact Sheet (18 October 2016). Go here.
[No. 17] Issues with plant-derived cork and coconut coir infill and silica sand stabilizer in artificial turf fields. There is about 129.6 tons oftire crumb infill and 120 tons of silica sand on an artificial turf field – that translates to 52% tire crumb and 48% silica sand. Given the relative weight differential and compaction characteristics crumb rubber and plant-derived (“corkonut”) infill it makes sense that a plant-derived artificial turf filed contain more silica sand than a crumb rubber infilled field. For example, in both GreenPlay and PureFill fields there is 80 tons of corkonut and 120 tons of silica (that is 40% corkonut and 60% silica sand). See p. 47 of 170 at https://lfportal.loudoun.gov/LFPortalinternet/0/doc/199050/Electronic.aspx (Loudon County Public Schools (Virginia) Synthetic Turf Alternative Infill Analysis) (also available here). A Massachusetts field consultancy documents shows up to 90% silica sand used with corkonut. Seehttp://www.galeassociates.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Alternative-Infills-for-Synthetic-Turf.pdf (also available here).
Silica sand is a carcinogen. Seehttp://www.synturf.org/silica.html . If the general public has not as yet caught on to the health risks associated with silica sand in artificial turf fields is because the purveyors of synthetic fields often ridicule such concerns by equating silica sand with beach sand and sandbox sand – drawing the unfortunate inference in the minds of the uneducated that one might as well close up the sand boxes and stop going to the beach! The fact is that according to the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics beach sand is perfectly fine for sandbox use (the other type of safe sand for child play is natural river sand. Seehttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Safety-in-the-Sandbox.aspx . Not safe for child play is silica sand used in artificial turf fields. One purveyor’s own MSDS for silica sand (see here and here) notes that skin contact with this substance “can cause moderate to severe irritation of eyes, including discomfort or pain, local redness and swelling of the conjuctiva” and “[i]f inhaled as dust, this product can cause irritation of the respiratory system resulting in coughing and/or sneezing. Higher exposures may cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs with severe shortness of breath. Inhalation of silica can also cause a chronic irreversible lung disorder, silicosis. Some medical reports state inhalation of silica dust for prolonged periods may cause lung cancer.”
Another substance used in corkonut fields is the coconut coir.According to one MSDS for coconut at https://www.groworganic.com/media/pdfs/pso110-m.pdf(here): “Nuisance dust may require use of dust mask and safety glasses. Gloves are recommended…. Ingestion can cause nausea or vomiting.... Disposal in waterways or sensitive areas should be avoided... Proper precautions are advised to prevent infection of open wounds, inhalation of excessive amounts of dust, eye irritation and ingestion....” Items recommended for handling of this product include standard respirator for dust, ordinary work gloves or rubber gloves, and safety glasses.
[No. 16] Buyer Beware! Rubber and other unsuspected ingredients in some plant-derived infills. Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water, the beast known as “Truth” pulls you down as you gasp for air in the face of the subterfuge and misdirection that the artificial turf industry uses to give the consumer the impression that plant-derived infill is safe. The consumer buys into this myth because it is led to believe that the infill that holds the plastic fibers in place and provides cushioning is 100% plant-derived. The truth about some plant-derived infill as an alternative to the crumb rubber infill is at variance with what some of the purveyor of this product claim.
Take the product literature for the brand Geofill by Italgreen USA: It claims that “The flagship of Italgreen called Geofill ®, the prestigious infill vegetable, thanks to its innovative and unique organic properties, gives the entire system synthetic grass an amazing touch of naturalness. Constant research and development has meant that Italgreen was the first company in the world to market with a 100% organic infill: the Geofill ®. This infill the company makes most of fields both in Italy and abroad.” See Geofill’s product literature here.
One of our correspondents recently alerted us to the patent that United States Patent and Trademark Office granted to Italgreen on 22 October 2013 for “Artificial Turf Structure and Production Method Thereof.” United States Patent US 8,563,099 B2 (Oct. 22, 2013) - Inventor: Maurizio Gilardi, Villa d’Adda (Italy); Assignee: Italgreen S.p.A., Villa d’Adda (Italy). For the letters patent on this product go here.
Briefly, as stated by our correspondent, the patent states vegetable infill material can be anywhere from 10%-90% resilient particulate matter including synthetic rubber, for example styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), or thermoplastic elastomers mixed in, and with other additives as colorants, fireproofing agents, fungicide, etc.
The Background section of the patent distinguishes the novelty of the Italgreen from other patents for plant-derived infills that it had filed: previously:
It is known that, in general terms, artificial turfs, in particular for sports fields, consist of a synthetic mat formed by a sheet substrate in which there extend vertically filaments which simulate a natural greensward; infill materials are arranged between the filaments to form one or more filling layers; the infill materials most commonly used are sand and relatively elastic polymeric materials (mainly natural or synthetic rubber, but also thermoplastic materials of various types), which are either mixed together or arranged in layers, according to various methods. [EP-A-l74755 and WO2006/ 08579 by the same inventor and assignee as for Geofill] … disclose artificial turf structure including as an infill material cork granules and peat-based materials [and] a mixed turf (i.e. a turf including both synthetic and natural grass filaments), respectively. [The present patent discloses] wherein a layer of organic material, suitable for the development of living plants, is used in combination with a traditional infill material layer. The known infill materials are not all entirely satisfactory under various aspects, for example in terms of performance, costs, draining capacity and humidity maintenance.
According to the description of the embodiments in the Italgren patent,
With reference to the attached FIGURE, an artificial turf structure  for sports fields comprises a synthetic mat , having a sheet substrate  from which grass-resembling filaments  project, and a filling layer  formed by an infill material arranged between the filaments . The mat  is placed on a foundation base , for example a tamped earth bed. The substrate  consists of a sheet or tape of suitable plastic materials, in particular a fabric, a non-woven fabric or a felt made of synthetic rubber, for example styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), or of synthetic fibres, for example polypropylene or similar, possibly spread or coated with suitable polymeric reinforcement layers. The filaments , made of suitable yarns, for example polyethylene, polyamide, polypropylene, etcetera, are sewn or woven on the substrate .The filling layer  comprises a coconut-base vegetable material, in fibrous, ground, chopped and/or shredded form.
Furthermore, per Italgreen patent:
[T]he infill material (regardless of its composition) is applied to the substrate  in granular form, thus avoiding the formation and sprinkling of powders; the granules of infill material are then dampened with water so as to dissolve the granules and release the components in the original form. It is also possible to comprise in the granules all the components needed for the formation of infill material, without therefore requiring the use, during installation, of different materials; it is also possible to comprise in the granules possible further additives, for example colorants to confer to the granules a particular colour, substances adapted to make the granules fireproof, substances adapted to prevent the formation of moulds, fungi, bacteria, etcetera.
[No. 15] Long Beach, California:Health concerns promptParks and Recreation to recommend organic infill. According to a news report in Long Beach Post (16 June 2015), “[a] fter nearly a two hour discussion on the potential health risks of petroleum based product being placed on new synthetic soccer fields in the city the Parks and Recreation Commission changed direction and voted to approve a recommendation to the city manager’s office that an all-natural alternative filler be used for future projects. Complaints from community members about the potential exposure to harmful chemicals and the propensity for rubber infill to create spikes in field temperature led the commission to recommend the use of a coconut-based fiber as the material that should be used for synthetic surfaces installed in the city.” “The GeoFill product that is composed of coconut fiber costs a projected $1.25 per pound, nearly three times as much as the originally proposed acrylic-coated rubber crumbs. However, the coconut product which has been present on Italian soccer fields for over a decade and is present in a field at the Google Corporate Campus has been shown to reduce surface heat by at least 10 percent when compared to the rubber crumbs. It would also absorb more water used to cleanse and cool the surface. The coconut infill would have a lifespan of 2-3 years instead of the roughly 10 year lifespan of the rubber crumbs. It would also cost about $50,000 more per field ….. However eliminating the risk of potential exposure to harmful chemicals and saving water were ultimately what led to the change in vote. The water saving figures were immediately unavailable …. Shaw Sports Turf Territory Manager Leie Sualua spoke [of] the advantages of having an organic-based infill. Sualua … said that the turf at the Google facility is watered one to two times a month and that it became the […] the infill choice of Italy only after it banned rubber crumbs. Referring to it as the future of turf, he said that the coconut fibers would be safe except for an extremely small percentage of the population. ‘The only thing you have to worry about is somebody possibly being allergic to coconuts,’.” Source: Jason Ruiz, “Parks and Recreation Commission Proposes Organic Filler for Synthetic Turf Projects,” in Long Beach Post, 16 June 2015, athttp://lbpost.com/news/city/2000006350-parks-and-recreation-commission-proposes-organic-filler-for-synthetic-turf-projects .
[No. 14] Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania: ‘Nike Grind’ for Quarry Park Field. According to a news report in The Morning Call (22 May 2015), “[t]he artificial turf portion of a controversial Lower Macungie park improvement project apparently will be getting more costly, leaving township commissioners with some tough decisions on what to eliminate from this year's work to stay within their $3.3 million budget… Commissioners seem inclined to spend about $350,000 more than expected on two synthetic fields at Quarry Park to avoid using a controversial tire rubber material that has become the subject of a national health debate….The turf project has been a controversial one and may have contributed to the outcome of the May 19 primary, during which incumbent Jim Lancsek lost his bid for re-election. Lancsek supported the turf plan. A majority of commissioners say they would prefer to put an upgraded in-fill material on the field — ground up Nike sneakers — rather than rubber that comes from vehicle tires, a material that has become the focus of intense scrutiny….While the Synthetic Turf Council, a nonprofit trade association, insists the so-called crumb rubber is safe, some critics point to its potential cancer risk. The rubber comes from tires that have at least 30 compounds or materials, including known carcinogens such as benzene, butadiene and arsenic….No studies have conclusively found a link to cancer. Some consider ground up sneakers a safer alternative. ‘The idea is the [Nike] rubber is approved for wearing on the human body,’ [Commissioner Brian] Higgins Higginssaid. ‘There is a perception that it is safer because it has to go through more rigorous testing.’” Source: Patrick Lester, “Move to ‘safer’ rubber in Lower Macungie to raise cost of turf fields,” in The Morning Call, 22 May 2015, at http://www.mcall.com/news/local/eastpenn/mc-lower-macungie-quarry-park-turf-contract-20150522-story.html
[No. 14A] EHHI comments on ‘Nike Grind’ as alternative infill. In an e-mail dated 9 July 2015, Nancy Alderman, President, Environment and Human Health, Inc. (www.ehhi.org), commented: “A synthetic turf field -- instead of using 40,000 ground up rubber tires that we know a lot about -- people are turning to Nike Grind that uses 50,000-75,000 rubber soles of sneakers -- that we know absolutely nothing about. Remember the synthetic turf industry said that the ground up rubber tires were perfectly safe --- and of course that was not so --- now Nike Grind [http://nikegrind.com/faq] says its product is safe -- and who knows what is actually in the rubber soles of sneakers -- and 75,000 of them at that. We will say yet one more time --- whatever happened to grass???”
[No. 13] Pleasantville, New York: School officials pick organic infill for artificial turf fields at the high and middle schools. According to a news report in the Examiner-News (18 April 2015), “[a]fter several months of debate, [on 14 April] Pleasantville school officials … opted to use an organic product for the artificial turf field infill at the middle school and high school.” According to the report, the base bid for the project, “which would have utilized crumb rubber infill for the turf at the high school and middle school, came in at $1,403,200.” “Since other bids came in lower than expected; officials had extra funds to use for the alternative infill. The organic turf, which is comprised 90 percent coconut and 10 percent cork, will cost an additional $105,000, but district officials concluded that the benefit outweighs the slightly higher cost. Trustee Louis Conte said since he believes a material should be considered unsafe until proven otherwise, that was an important factor in his decision to vote for the organic infill. He said the benefit of the decision will extend beyond students. ‘I think that what we are doing is being responsible to our community,’ Conte said.”Source: Janine Bowen “P’ville school officials opt for organic infill in new artificial turf fields,” inThe Examiner, 18 April 2015, at http://www.theexaminernews.com/pville-school-officials-opt-for-organic-infill-for-new-artificial-turf/
[No. 12] On Nike Grind and other alternative infills? SynTurf.org, NewtonMass. 1 April 2015. Following NBC’s October 2014 investigative report on the potential health consequences of playing on artificial turf fields that contain used tire crumb, some communities around the country began looking into alternative infills.
Arguably a leader in the artificial turf industry, as far as FieldTurf is concerned crumb rubber infill from used tires (SBR) is “king.” Why the bias? SBR infill is a part of the company’s patented technology and, compared with other infills, SBR is also cheaper, largely because the tire dumps like to get rid of the used tires. The cheaper cost of SBR is a selling point when it comes to cash-strapped municipalities and cost-conscious buyers. But the money that the buyers save on SBR infill is also the profit that companies that use SBR stand to make—all of this is of course at the potential expense of players’ health. This is not say that companies enamored of SBR are so indifferent to the demands of the marketplace so as to not offer “alternatives.” For example, FieldTurf s website features a cork infill called Purefill (here), alongside other alternatives grouped as “EcoSport” infill, consisting of EcoMax, EcoGreen, and EcoGrind (here). EcoMax is extruded composite of recycled turf and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). EcoGreen is also extruded composite of recycled turf and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), but in the color green as opposed to black. EcoGrind is made from recycled athletic shoes and Nike manufacturing material (the so-called “Nike Grind”).
There are companies that specify that their TPE product is extruded from “virgin” rubber (see here ). Rubber is rubber, virgin or not. Virgin rubber is understood to mean a new rubber compound that has not been used and recycled and, in the case of tires, not recapped or retreaded. But nothing in the term TPE suggests that the rubber is of a different chemical composition than a new tire or used one. It is equally misleading to suggest that infill made from EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer), also an elastomer, is something other than rubber or that its virginity makes up for the vice inherent and present in its toxic and carcinogenic components.
This brings us to “Nike Grind,” also a rubber infill. Most people want to believe that such grind is made of the rubber soles of used or discarded athletic shoes. Certainly, Nike’s own website (here) and the Wikipedia article on Nike Grind (here) seem to say so. But not so, according to lobbyist Greg Hurner, who spoke before the California’s Senate Committee on Environmental Quality on 18 March 2015. He spoke on behalf of FieldTurf and BAS Recycling in relation to Senator Jerry Hill’s proposed legislation (SB47) that limits the use of crumb rubber infill from recycled tires while the state conducts a study to determine its health risks. For a brief of the proceedings go to http://www.synturf.org/factsheets.html (Item No.17). In fact, FieldTurf’s website itself states thatits EcoGrind is made from recycled athletic shoes and Nike manufacturing material.
Hurner’s remarks at the hearing begin at the 01:01:51 mark of the video of the session. Go to http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2649 . He appears visibly nervous and as one can see not very much in command of the material that he is discussing. If the committee were a courtroom, his demeanor would undermine the credibility of his testimony—regardless of the truth or falsity of the testimony itself.He is heard giving a confused account about the nature of alternative infills, pointing out the inferiority of cork as an infill. Cork infill alone tends to wash away, as his clients may have found out from their own experience. There are, however, organic infill made of byproducts of cork, coconut, and rice processing which perform reliably (here, here and here ). Hurner, naturally, left out any mention of other infills using cork in combination with other organic, plant-based material, such as the one chosen by the City of Gaithersburg, Maryland, for Lakelands Park—a mix of coconut fiber, cork and rice husks http://towncourier.com/city-hits-home-run-with-organic-infill-synthetic-turf/ (Limonta Sport/GeoSafePlay organic infill -- here)
The only revelatory moment in Hurner’s remarks had to do with the dark side of Nike Grind. He suggested that people should not be fooled by Nike’s strong brand or let it mask the fact that the grind is not from recycled shoes but rather is the ground up rubber from what is leftover in the manufacturing process of sneakers in China. According to him, Nike Grind contains high concentrations of aluminum, zinc, chromium, and lead [and another intelligibly uttered substance].
[No. 11] Marlborough, Massachusetts: Consultant reviews differences in infills. According to a news report in the Metro West Daily News (25 December 2014), “[a]fter recent national concerns about possible health risks associated with crumb rubber infill used in synthetic athletic fields, [Activitas, a firm hired to make recommendations for the project at Whitcomb Middle School] presented three potential alternative materials for the city’s first [synthetic] turf field [with crumb rubber infill].” “In a report sent to city officials, Activitas presented three alternative materials: a rubber that receives an ultraviolet coating to reduce the release of chemicals, a plastic compound and an organic cork and coconut hull mixture. While the encapsulated rubber that receives an ultraviolet coating can be colored to make a more visually attractive field, it does not have a long enough history to indicate the coating will remain intact for the life of the field. It would also cost an additional $114,000 more than crumb rubber, according to the report.
Officials from Activitas said many fields that use thermoplastic elastomer, a plastic compound, have to be replaced because the material has a very low melting point and once melted, it creates a gum-like substance that sticks to cleats. The plastic compound would cost an additional $229,000, according to the report. The organic infill does not have the unpleasant odor often associated with fields that use crumb rubber and is very easily recycled, however, if it is not properly maintained it will compact and harden, affecting field performance and safety. The organic infill would cost the city an extra $450,000, according to the report.” Source: Jeff Malachowski, “Consultant presents alternative materials for Marlborough synthetic athletic field,” in Metro West Daily News, 25 December 2014, at http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20141225/NEWS/141228155
SynTurf.org Note. The authors of the aforementioned report told the town’s Finance Committee in November (2014) that “studies have concluded there is no scientific data linking crumb rubber infill to cancer. ‘Until there is a credible one we don’t think the city should eschew the installation of a new turf field and should not dismiss the use of (styrene-butadiene) rubber out of hand,’ the report stated.” Obviously, the presence of two carcinogens in the product that the consultants do indicate as present in tire crumb is not good enough reason to dismiss the use of crumb rubber.
[No. 10]Corkonut at LakelandsPark. We are happy with half of a loaf when the whole loaf eludes us. As much as we like natural grass playing fields and would not endorse ever an artificial turf field as a playing surface on principle, it does provide us with some consolation however that at least the crumb rubber aspect of artificial turf can be eliminated from artificial turf fields. On 25 October 2014 a number of officeholders gathered at LakelandsPark in Gaithersburg, Maryland, for the opening ceremony of the park’s synthetic turf field. In her remarks, the Director of Parks, Recreation & Culture Michelle Potter noted that the municipality had conduced “exhaustive research, … including assessment of various synthetic turf fields throughout the region, to determine the ideal convergence of environmental responsibility, safety, and sustainability.” “In keeping with the City’s commitment to environmental sensitivity and accountability,” she said “we’re using organic, recyclable infill comprised of coconut fibers, rice husk and cork. Steps are taken to protect the natural environment at every step of the process—from manufacturing and installation to re-use/recycling.” “In fact, our sub-contractor, Grove, from Alpine Services,” she volunteered, “uses it as soil in his garden and showed us beautiful vegetables growing in it!” “The natural, non-hazardous materials used on this field also prevent damage to the environment by diminishing leeching and water runoff … [and reduces] the transmission of pollutants into the surrounding watershed, helping to keep both Gaithersburg, and the greater Chesapeake area, a healthy environment for plants and wildlife,” she said.
Source Acknowledgement: We thank GeoTurf (formerly GeoSafePlay) for the copy of Michelle Potter’s remarks. According to a press release by the company, dated 21 October, 2014, http://conta.cc/1wi3MEy its infill is a “patented blend of 100% organic infill, comprised of coconut fibers/cork/rice husk.” According to the company, there have been “hundreds of successful installations worldwide with this turf system” in venues from professional stadiums to playgrounds, with fields “that have already been in service for the full warrantied life-cycle of eight years that may well continue on for a couple of more years due to the durability of the organic/synthetic system,” it said.
[No. 9] Gaithersburg, Maryland: Organic infill at LakelandsPark’s artificial turf. According to news item on Montgomery County Media (19 September 2014), the infill at the “organic turf field being built at Lakelands Park in Gaithersburg … is a mix ofcoconut fibers, rice husk and cork instead of the black rubber used in most synthetic turf fields.” Source: Krista Brick, “Fake Grass at Lakelands Park Looking for Rain,” on Montgomery County Media, 19 September 2014, athttp://www.mymcmedia.org/fake-grass-at-lakelands-park-looking-for-rain/
[No. 8] Corkonut temperature and moisture test results. Results. On 30 June 2012, ISA Sports USA, in Lubbock, Texas, released the results of its temperature and moisture retention comparisons for Limonta Sport Max-S 60mmTurf with its organic (corkonut - combination of cork and coconut fiber) - InfillPro Geo- against natural grass, crumb tire rubber, and crumb tire rubber/sand. For the results (tabulation) click here. The porosity of the natural cork and stabilized with the ideal blend of coconut fibers (coir) accounts for this infill’s capacity to absorb and retain moisture. According to a Limonta press release, the testing was conducted in extreme outdoor high temperatures and arid climate of the south-west United States, measured with and without water. The four test bed samples included natural grass, synthetic turf with the organic infill, synthetic turf with rubber only and synthetic turf with rubber/sand combined.The e organic in-filled turf was within 20°F of the natural grass sample as compared to the combined rubber/sand filled turf that measured as much as 76°F hotter than the natural grass. An average of 12 ounces of water per square foot was applied to each of the four test samples to achieve a uniform 5% moisture content. After little more than an hour in the hot sun, neither of the samples containing rubber was able to maintain moisture while the sample with organic infill was reading 4.5% on the moisture meter. It was also noted that with sustained 20 - 30% relative humidity, the organic infill still maintained up to 2% moisture after three days with no added water. Source: “Naturally Cool Synthetic Turf” on The Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire, 30 July 2012, at http://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/34424-Naturally-Cool-Synthetic-Turf .
SynTurf.org Note: SynTurf.org does not endorse products. Every now and then we do report on the advancements that are being made to make artificial turf fields less dangerous and environmentally less hostile.
[No. 7] Venice, Italy: Università IUAV di Venezia study backs corkonut’s claim to running cooler than rubber infill. We begin with a disclaimer - The present entry does in no way imply this site’s approval of synthetic playing surfaces or endorsement of any particular product – even though the product may be preferable at some level to the rubber infill used in artificial turf fields.
We are talking about “corkonut,” a name that this site gave to an “organic” infill made from coconut fibers and recycled cork material left over after punching out wine bottle corks. In October 2010, the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (Iuav University of Venice) conducted a Field Surface Temperature and Air Temperature test at several sports fields in Italy on the application of Limonta Sport S.p.A., an artificial turf company that innovated the corkonut infill. The synthetic fields that were tested were similar in the manner that they consisted primarily of 100% polyethylene extruded yarn in 100% tufted into a fabric backing with a secondary coating of either polyurethane or latex. Various types of infill materials were used to fill the voids between the tufted rows of plastic fibers: PU coated and uncoated SBR (ground car tires); thermoplastic; sand and organic infill (cork & coir) – corkonut being this last-named one. The term “coir” technically refers to fiber that is extracted from the husk of coconut; it is the fibrous material found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut. According the temperature study, the data revealed that the field surface temperatures varied depending on the type of turf/infill materials used. Of the types analyzed, SoccerPro Max S PU 60 synthetic turf with InfillPro Geo [GeoTurf by Limonta] infills, that consisted of InfillPro-TP, a granule made from thermoplastic elastomers, and the InfillPro Geo (cork and coir). The tests revealed that although the infill temperatures in synthetic turf were higher than those observed in natural grass, there was a minimal affect on the air temperature in the regions between 20-170 cm [centimeter] above the surface. The study claims that it was readily apparent that the choice of infill, in this case InfillPro Geo, considerably lowered the temperature of the field to the point of being almost on par with natural grass. A copy of the test results is available here.
SynTurf.org has leaned that the reduced temperature retention of corkonut infill was an important factor in an all-girls school’s decision to install an artificial turf field in Stevenson, Maryland. In June 2011, on an 85 F° day, the facilities director at St. Timothy’s School reportedly compared the field temperatures of two artificial turf fields and found that the field with crumb rubber infill measured 148 degrees and the field with corkonut infill measured 105 degrees - the natural grass was 98 degrees.
[No. 6] San Carlos, California: Corkonut infill debuts in the state. The readers of this site are no strangers to the decade-long epic struggle of the grassroots Save San Carlos Parks. We have been reporting on the community activists, parents and concerned citizens since the winter of 2008 and indeed chose them as the Environmentalist of the Year for 2008. The item below (Item No. 5) provides a thumb sketch of the denouement of their courageous stand against all odds. From an environmental perspective, the city’s agreement to install an organic infill – as opposed to the toxic crumb rubber – was a huge win for the activist. According to the news item in Mercury News (March 4, 2011), “After playing a little hardball against supporters of natural grass, San Carlos today will celebrate the opening of an artificial turf field at Highlands Park with a ceremonial first pitch and exhibition Little League game … City officials say the Highlands Park field will be the first on the West Coast with an organic turf infill of coconut husks, cork and sand. The combination gives it a more natural look than typical synthetic turf and keeps the field temperature cooler, officials say. [Mayor Omar] Ahmad proudly mentioned the field during his state of the city speech Thursday night [March 3], saying ‘we've got the first organic infill field in California.’” Source: Jesse Dungan, “HighlandsPark synthetic turf field opens today,” in Mercury News, March 4, 2011, available at http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_17542440?nclick_check=1 . Also see, Kenny Porpora, “After Decade-Long Struggle, San Carlos Reveals Synthetic Turf on Highland Park,” in San Carlos Patch, March 6, 2011, available at http://sancarlos.patch.com/articles/after-decade-long-struggle-san-carlos-reveals-synthetic-turf-on-highland-park .
[No. 5] San Carlos, California: An environmental half-loaf for activists. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. September 19, 2010. The readers of this site are no strangers to the epic struggle of the grassroots Save San Carlos Parks. We have been reporting on these community activists, parents and concerned citizens since the winter of 2008 and indeed chose them as the Environmentalist of the Year for 2008. For earlier reporting of their doings on this site, please go to http://www.synturf.org/grassrootsnotes.html (Items Nos. 29, 30, 33, 46, and 55). After three years of participation in the political process, administrative and legal proceedings, as the Mercury News reported on September 17, 2010, “San Carlos’ HighlandsPark is no longer a battlefield now that a settlement has been reached over plans to install artificial turf.” “San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner on Wednesday [September 15] afternoon signed off on the agreement between the city and Save San Carlos Parks. City officials reached a final deal with the group on Monday [September 13].”
According to the report, “As part of the agreement between city officials and Save San Carlos Parks -- a grassroots organization that sued over the turf project -- steps will be taken to ensure traffic safety and efficiency.” These improvements were the remedies that the activists could hope for, as their case in the end was no longer against the artificial turf but about the environmental impact of increased traffic, congestion, and pollution. The decision to install the artificial turf field as a programmatic matter was approved already without a basis for appeal. However, even in that, the activist managed to score a big point for the environment. As Mercury News reported, “Another agreement reached earlier between the two sides determined that an organic infill would be used on the field instead of recycled rubber tire infill, which [Daniele Huerta, a resident near the park and a member of Save San Carlos Parks] said could be toxic and create ‘tremendous heat problems.’” The group also managed to recoup some $85,000 in legal fees. Source: Kristen Marschall, “Terms of San Carlos artificial turf settlement emphasize safety,” in Mercury News, September 17, 2010, available at http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_16107935 .
The infill that will be used in the Highlands Park installation is what SynTurf.org fist called “corkonut” (http://www.synturf.org/alternativeinfill.html, Item No. 2, November 2009), made of part cocoanut shell and part cork. In an e-mail to SynTurf.org, Domenic Carapella, the Managing Director of Limonta GeoTurf USA expressed his relief at the news form San Carlos, stating that “The project … had already been awarded to us and is scheduled for install in November. We just completed a beautiful elementary school install in Piedmont CA, Haven’s Elementary.”
[No. 04] EHHI: Beware of the danger with some of the “alternative infill.” In an e-mail, dated September 2, 2010, Environment and Human Health, Inc. communicated the data that the Connecticut Synthetic Turf Study (seehttp://www.synturf.org/westportbrief.html Item No. 09) generated about alternative infills to crumb rubber. “We are simply sending out the data we have put together from the recent CT Synthetic Turf Study, wrote Nancy Alderman, President of the non-profit organization. “This data could all have been put together by the study - and released - but it was not, “ she wrote. Because the state of Connecticut has spent the money and time to analyze alternative infills, “it seemed important to put the data together in an understandable form and then get that information out to those who might be interested in having it,” Alderman stated. She emphatically indicated that EHHI does not endorse these products, “we have simply put the data together and are releasing it.”
According to EHHI, the Connecticut Synthetic Turf Study http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2690&Q=463624&depNav_GID=1511 looked at 17 samples of alternative infills and found 8 of the samples having “No Detect” levels of chemicals. The “no detect” infills are reviewed in CAES section of the Study at http://www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/artificialturf/caes_artificial_turf_report.pdf in Section 3 (Alternative Infills). In an e-mail from EHHI, dated September 4, 2010, David Brown, Sc. D., Public Health Toxicologist at EHHI, is quoted as saying “If onelooks at Table 10 of the CT Agricultural Experiment Station’s Report, you will see that the elemental analysis of the 6 out of the 8 infills that had no volatiles outgassing,containedlead; five contained Arsenic; and seven contained Chrome. Only one, B1011, did not – and it contains high levels of Zinc.” “As infills wear down they will present dust that then can be inhaled - and that results in a route of exposure for the Lead, Arsenic, Chrome and Zinc,” he commented. Another factor to take into consideration is that these alternatives look a lot like children’s candies - and that presents a problem for small children who might be sitting on the artificial fields watching. To sum it up --- there is “no free lunch” when it comes to artificial turf.Grass is still the best - and organic grass to the very best, according to EHHI.
[No. 03] “Corkonut” gets FIFA distinction. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. January 30, 2010. Among the most annoying dispatches received at SynTurf.org are items that are released by corporate communications people or their ad agencies touting products in the form of a press release or wire news. In the week’s fare however we came across one announcement that made good sense to us to be included in this edition of SynTurf.org. The item is entitled “Limonta Sport Chosen as FIFA Preferred Producer: World Governing Body of Soccer Once Again Raises the Benchmark for Synthetic Turf.” Submitted by GeoTurf USA, the piece claims that “Limonta Sport has been sold in over 70 countries with over 17,000 installations since 1981.” What caught our eye was the claim that “Recently, FIFA introduced the FIFA Preferred Producer Initiative, now raising the bar in recognition of the synthetic turf producers that have proven to consistently strive for the highest quality systems through research, testing, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance procedures. Limonta Sport … was selected by FIFA as one of only five, chosen from more than 150 synthetic turf producers and 25 FIFA Quality Concept licensees worldwide.” As a publication that first used the term corckonut (seehttp://www.synturf.org/alternativeinfill.html - Item No. 02), we could not help but notice the following: “InfillPro Geo: Developed and tested over the last decade, this patented and proven organic infill has revolutionized the synthetic turf market around the world. With its proprietary blend of coconut fiber and cork, or ‘corkonut’, InfillPro Geo offers increased foot stability and lowers impact forces, or Gmax, greatly reducing the risk of injuries. Of equal significance is the fact that odor free InfillPro Geo naturally absorbs humidity from the air and releases it through an evaporative cycle similar to natural turf. By nature of its composition and these natural properties, its use in our synthetic turf greatly reduces the surface heat by almost half. This greatly reduces the risk of heat exhaustion in athletes and does not contribute to the heat island effect.” This infill came about at a time “[w]hen environmental and safety concerns gripped the conscience of Europe in the last decade with the proliferation of SBR, or crumb rubber from car tires, used for the infill between the synthetic turf blades. Communities and nations alike began to question its use in synthetic turf.” Source: “Limonta Sport Chosen as FIFA Preferred Producer: World Governing Body of Soccer Once Again Raises the Benchmark for Synthetic Turf,” in CSR Press Release, January 29, 2010, available at http://www.csrwire.com/press/press_release/28784-Limonta-Sport-Chosen-as-FIFA-Preferred-Producer .
[No. 02] Corkonut alternative infill is catching on. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. November 21, 2009. Headlines like this are bound to be viewed as advertising for the company that makes the “corkonut” – cork and coconut – variety of infill for artificial turf fields. An item like this may even give the impression that SynTurf.org is straying from its mission that is to oppose artificial turf fields on principle. Neither impression is correct. We do not advertise. We report; in this case the product is called Geo Turf by Limonta of Italy. Nor have we abandoned our opposition to the desecration of green grasslands by installing plastic fields. There is, however, something to be said about making this obnoxious amendment to urban, suburban and rural landscape as safe as possible for child play. On that score, we applaud the communities who move away from the use of crumb rubber infill for something less toxic along the spectrum.
Recently, we received word from two communities in which the decision-makers opted to go with the corkonut. A news story in the Bowen Island Times Edition (October 2, 2009) described the process by which Bowen (British Columbia) became the first community in Canada to jilt the crumb rubber option for corkonut. Click here for the story.For a praise and testimonial of the installation by The Canadian Soccer Association (November 6, 2009) click here. In October 2009, Riverdale High School in the Bronx, NY, complted its full five-sport artifcial turf with corkonut infill.
According to a news story in the Contra Costa Times(November 19, 2009) “The [Piedmont] school board has chosen cork and coconut hulls for Havens Elementary School's play field, to the relief of many Havens' parents. District officials had been considering a crumb rubber surface for the field, but after receiving a petition with 115 signatures from parents opposing installing rubber, they developed a list of alternative surfaces, including cork and coconut, plastic, sand and grass. Though there were few mentions of toxicity or health issues in any of the alternatives, seven of the 15 attendees at Tuesday's special board meeting spoke against choosing rubber. The field is intended for the school's kindergartners through fifth-graders and as a community resource. Its plans include two small synthetic turf soccer fields for children's use. For more on this story, go to Lucinda Ryan, “Piedmont's Havens field to get environmentally friendly organic turf,” in Contra Costa Times, November 19, 2009, available at http://www.contracostatimes.com/my-town/ci_13824541?source=rss&nclick_&nclick_check=1 or click here.
The question to be asked is why not more artificial turf installations use corkonut infill. The answer lies in a system of municipal procurement practices that does not allow for the sellers of alternative artificial turf fields to bid on projects. Typically, the municipality hires a “consultant” that then becomes, in the course of advising the prospective buyer, into a project manager. Most of managers recommend or put their requests for proposals or bids to artificial turf manufacturers who only deal in crumb rubber infill, much to the delight of the tire industry, landfills, and faux environmentalists who think as long as the stuff leaves the landfill and is “recycled” tire rubber it is okay. They routinely badmouth the alternatives as untested, with no to limited installations in the US, under-performing or expensive. When that does not work, they tell the buyer that if the buyer went with the alternative infill that the manufacturer could not warranty the field. That usually ties the buyer to crumb rubber.
[No. 1] Dr. Maida P. Galvez (Mount Sinai) on alternatives to crumb rubber infill. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. November 8, 2009. Dr. Maida P. Galvez is Assistant Professor, Community and Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics at Mount SinaiHospital’s Children’s Environmental health center, in New York City. In December 2007 she was a lead-panelist at the center’s lecture series on the topic of Toxic Toys, Plastics & Playgrounds.http://www.synturf.org/events.html (Item No. 3)
Recently, a reader was registering her son for indoor lacrosse at a new indoor sports facility in Norwalk, Connecticut.She asked what their infill was and the manager of the facility, Tom Siler, stated to her that the infill was “pure recycled rubber from not from tires.” She checked the facility’s website at http://www.sonofieldhouse.com/sfh-green.html , where she noted the following: “Sono Field House has taken great strides to help conserve the environment and our customers’ safety. The state-of-the-art turf field at Sono Field House utilizes a pure pre-manufactured recycled product. This is a much cleaner alternative to traditional SBR Rubber infill that comes from recycled automotive tires. The result is the highest quality indoor playing surface available, free of odor and dust. Additionally, this cutting edge new system eliminates the presence of heavy metals, aromatic amines, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – all carcinogenic substances associated with old infilled turf systems. Come play on New England’s finest green indoor turf field!”
The reader turned to Dr. Galvez to verify some of the claims made by Sono Field House.
In an e-mail to the readers, dated November 4, 2009, Dr. Galvez wrote the following:
There were several concerns put forth about the original crumb rubber infill, among them concern for chemical exposure, high temperatures on the turf, injury, and infection.The new products are aimed at decreasing these concerns and providing a safer environment for play.Materials used include natural fibers and cork, plastic infill, a vulcanized synthetic rubber (EPDM), and recyclable (but not recycled) non-vulcanized thermoplastic elastomer (TPE).The new rubber products produced specifically for the purpose of turf fields reduce or eliminate the zinc, sulfur, carbon black, andpolyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in the recycled tire products.
EPDM is a vulcanized synthetic rubber elastomer composed of ethylene and diene crosslinks.Vulcanization is a process in which curatives and additives are combined with rubber to convert it into a more durable and functional material.Unlike those added in the production of passenger tires, it is believed that additives used in the creation of EPDM are non toxic.
TPE is a crosslink of plastic and rubber covalently bonded and retaining the functionality of both materials - they can be molded and recycled and also have elastic properties.The structure of TPEs is maintained without the addition of reinforcing agents and stabilizers.
It is unclear from the website of Sono Field House which of the rubber alternatives they are using in the turf field.Further studies are needed to determine long term chemical exposure risks of newer products.
Ultimately, it’s always hard to know whether the alternatives are indeed safer without studies and as we both know, studies are largely lacking.Though, this alternative seems specifically designed to reduce exposures related to past tire use specifically.Whether or not EDPM or TPE addresses all concerns has not been definitively answered.Caroline is going to look into alternatives in greater detail and what’s known about them.
Certainly, there are known benefits to your son’s getting regular exercise and participating in team sports.I don’t know their ages but perhaps they can take measures to reduce their exposure as we mentioned eg removing crumb from shoes and clothing, frequent hand washing, ensuring proper hydration etc.I do know folks who feel their own teens are likely at low risk given their age and developmental stage but this is a personal decision for each family based on the information we have available.Very difficult decisions!