Is Synthetic Grass Harmful to Health?

 

Sports grass

Artificial grass may appear to be an ideal substitute for maintaining a real lawn, which necessitates frequent weeding, watering, and mowing, but some evidence suggests that artificial turf may be unsafe. Also, artificial grass maintenance isn't as simple as you might think. While you don't have to mow it, you may have to vacuum it to clear debris, and you may have to use toxic herbicides to get rid of weeds that can grow through it.

It is the "crumb rubber" that is used in the top layer of synthetic turf products to provide extra padding and keep the "grass" upright that is the source of health concerns about synthetic turf. Because it is made from recycled tires, crumb rubber contains only trace amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as heavy metals. Crumb rubber is used to make tires and other products (zinc, iron, manganese and lead). It is possible for these chemicals to enter your body through direct skin contact with crumb rubber or through accidental ingestion, which is most often caused by putting your fingers in your mouth or by not washing your hands before eating after playing on artificial turf. It could also occur as a result of inhaling dust and vapors from crumb rubber while playing on artificial fields or lawns, among other things.


It was discovered that 14 samples of shredded used tires were tested at Yale University and contained 96 different chemicals, according to the non-profit group Environment and Human Health, Inc. In total, approximately half of these chemicals had not been subjected to government testing, and those that had were found to contain 11 carcinogens and 20 compounds that are irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. The organization also notes that the number of cancer cases among young people who have played on these fields has continued to rise – primarily lymphomas and leukemias, which affect primarily soccer goalkeepers, according to the organization.


According to Environment and Human Health Inc., because synthetic turf fields are made from petrochemical products, they are highly flammable, and as a result, many of them are now treated with flame retardants, which are also harmful. In addition, because many students were contracting MRSA, a serious staph infection that is resistant to many antibiotics, from the fields, most artificial turf now contains antimicrobials, which are often toxic in large quantities. High temperatures (up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) during the warm months encourage the spread of infections.


While researching this topic, I came across yet another interesting criticism of artificial turf: it creates yet another barrier between children and nature, which is concerning. Growing evidence suggests that children today suffer from nature deficit disorder and that they require regular contact with living greenery in order to maintain their physical and mental health at the highest possible level.


Overall, although natural lawns can pose health risks if pesticides and herbicides are used on them, I would recommend using a real lawn whenever possible if you have the option. Adults can also benefit from spending more time in nature and reducing their exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. And yard work such as weeding and mowing provide excellent opportunities to get some exercise.

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