Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Synthetic turf at the Beach Chalet field

Turf Cross-Section
Synthetic Turf

After reading this
article in Salon the other day, I asked the folks in the Recreation and Parks Department this question: "Interested in your reaction to this story about the potential toxicity of artificial turf. C
an you provide information on what kind of artificial turf SF is using on soccer fields in Golden Gate Park?"

Eric Pawlowsky, a Planning & Performance Analyst with the department, responded promptly: 

Hello Mr. Anderson,

Here’s some info on the Beach Chalet turf:

Manufacture: Fieldturf
Fiber/backing: XT-57
Infill: SBR and sand

Okay, this tells us which brand of synthetic turf the city is using on a specific field in the park but not on other fields in the city. But I didn't ask about the other fields, only about those in Golden Gate Park.

Still, the response implies that the city thinks that turf isn't toxic. Otherwise, of course the city wouldn't install it.

A little research on Fieldturf isn't reassuring, since there have been quality problems with its product around the country.

Those problems aren't about the product's toxicity but about its durability, though when/if synthetic turf unravels that might lead to more exposure to the potentially toxic recycled tire "crumbs."

Important questions about synthetic turf's toxicity are still being asked (Soccer players' cancers ignite debate over turf safety):

...It was about seven years ago, and their children were in preschool together. [Amy]Griffin, assistant head coach of women's soccer at the University of Washington, mentioned to Bryant how "it was weird" that some of her current and former players, especially goalkeepers, had been diagnosed with cancer.

Griffin turned to Bryant and said she wondered whether cancer was somehow associated with those "little black dots" on the artificial turf fields where they play, which were then replacing natural grass fields. Those dots are recycled tire crumbs. "I didn't think much of it until my son," Bryant said. Years after that conversation, just before he turned 14, Jack Bryant was diagnosed with cancer. He's a soccer goalie...

Other than the turf, Griffin said, she couldn't point to any other potential factors that might be linked to cancer among the goalkeepers on her list. "When I keep adding up these things, in my head, it's the one thing that I still don't feel great about," she said of crumb rubber being a possible factor.

"Goalkeepers get it in their sides, hips, elbows, abrasions from sliding on the stuff. So if they have an open sore, not only the black dots but the dust particles that you can't even see when the tire crumb breaks down so small get in there. I'm sure you eat it and inhale it," she said. "Just in a 10-minute warm-up, our keepers will hit the ground anywhere from 50 to 100 times."

Since the investigation, Griffin said many more people have reached out to add names to her list. Now, Griffin's list of soccer players with cancer has grown to 237, she said, and her team still uses two fields, one grass and one artificial...

Kathleen McCowin  bounces a soccer ball on the synthetic soccer field, at South Sunset Park, in San Francisco, Calif., to demonstrate the movement of the rubber material contained in the turf as seen on Fri. Jan. 16, 2015. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle
Michael Macor photo

For earlier posts on the issue, click on "Synthetic Turf" below.

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