Protest the Use of Synthetic Turf on Playgrounds

Target: Chairperson of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Inez Moore Tenenbaum

Goal: Reexamine the safety rating given to synthetic turf and discontinue its use in public playgrounds until further safety measures are taken.

Synthetic turf has recently been hailed as an economic and environmentally friendly alternative to natural grass on sports fields and playgrounds. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, or the CPSC, has even given artificial turf an official “safe to play” certification, specifically regarding its use on playgrounds across the nation. However, this rating is based on flawed data from a single study conducted in 2008 that ignores certain potential risks of synthetic turf.

While the study looked at the effects of the ingestion of lead found in some synthetic turfs, it failed to take into account very realistic risks of lead inhalation or absorption through the skin, exposure to other toxic chemicals often found in synthetic turf, and the effects of heat and frequent use of fields as contributing factors to potential risks. Other studies have shown that many forms of synthetic turf contain numerous harmful chemicals besides lead, such as “arsenic, benzene, cadmium, chromium, cobalt and mercury.” These chemicals reside within the recycled tire pieces that lie below the artificial grass. When the synthetic field heats up, whether through exposure to sunlight or abundant use, fumes are released. These fumes could potentially contain traces of these toxic chemicals, and therefore provide an unsafe environment for everyone, especially children.

Disturbingly, the level of lead discovered by the CPSC in fields made up of artificial turf exceeds its accepted lead limits for children’s products. However, playgrounds and school fields are not officially labeled as “children’s products” because, as the CPSC argues, the “same products [are] also marketed for adult use.” Furthermore, the CPSC rejected a call by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) to reclassify playgrounds as “children’s products,” and, in addition, that it will not enforce specific safety measures for children regarding the use of synthetic turf on playgrounds and schools. The CPSC’s endorsement of synthetic turf as a safe alternative to natural grass on playgrounds and sports fields is both flawed and irresponsible. Demand that the safety of artificial turf be reexamined in terms of other possible methods of exposure to lead and numerous other toxic chemicals, and that its use in playgrounds and public playing fields be suspended until these risks are eliminated.


Dear Inez Moore Tenenbaum,

Despite the economic and environmental benefits of synthetic turf, the use of artificial grass on public sports fields and playgrounds poses numerous risks for the public. By rating synthetic turf as “safe to play,” the Consumer Product Safety Commission has failed to take into account the alarmingly high number of potential risks this turf poses to children, including the effects of lead inhalation or absorption through the skin, the effects of heat and abundant use on the amount of fumes released from synthetic turf, and, most importantly, the potentially harmful effects of numerous toxic chemicals, other than lead, found in artificial turf.

By endorsing the use of synthetic turf in playgrounds, the CPSC has indirectly put the public at risk. I respectfully ask that this endorsement be reviewed in light of the many other possible risks of artificial turf that were not previously taken into account by the CPSC, and that the use of synthetic turfs on playgrounds and other public spaces be discontinued until further safety measures are taken.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Wei Zhong Goh via Flickr

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