Artificial Turf Field Heat Dangers Require Safeguards

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Artificial Turf Field Heat Dangers Require Safeguards

Synthetic Turf Temps as High as 200 Degrees Pose Particular Peril to Children

Washington, DC — The Consumer Product Safety Commission needs to issue heat guidelines to protect children and athletes from extreme temperatures on artificial fields, according to a formal rule-making petition filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  Composed of shredded tires, plastic and other synthetic materials, these artificial playgrounds and sports fields act as heat traps, recording surface temperatures of 168 degrees in air temperatures as low as 73 degrees.

Neither frequent watering or new infill techniques significantly reduces heat levels on these syn-fields.  Exercise on these over-heated surfaces is associated with health effects ranging from –

  • Heat exhaustion, heat stroke and extreme dehydration;
  • Burns and heat blisters, even blistering through shoes; and
  • Off-gassing of dangerous vapors from carbon black, lead, mercury and an array of other toxins.  As fields heat, noxious materials can be absorbed in gases that can become 10 to 20 times more toxic than the materials themselves.

There are now an estimated 4,000 artificial turf fields in the U.S., with the number growing each year.  The fields are subject to no health or safety standards.  This April, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a factsheet warning parents to be careful about surface heat on playgrounds, especially those composed of “dark plastics and rubbers” but the agency has yet to take regulatory action.

PEER is urging CPSC to adopt regulations governing heat restrictions on artificial fields, coupled with heat monitoring and posting to alert parents, coaches and players about hazardous conditions.  The regulations would be similar to those CPSC has adopted for the surfaces of electronically operated toys.

“These artificial fields can heat up like frying pans.  On some days, your shoes get so hot that it hurts just to walk out onto the field,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.  “These very real heat dangers are not widely understood and people wrongly presume that a publicly-maintained field must be safe.  That is precisely why we need enforceable limits and postings to prevent needless pain and potential tragedies.”

The artificial turf industry itself is aware of the dangers of heat on these fields.  In a recent interview with NPR, Rick Doyle, president of the Synthetic Turf Council stated “I don’t think anyone in our industry would suggest it’s a good idea to play on a surface that’s that hot.”

“If the industry itself acknowledges the high heat dangers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission should not hesitate in promulgating regulations,” Ruch added.  PEER is also pressing CPSC to treat playgrounds and school sports fields as “children’s products,” a classification triggering strict lead limits.  Shredded tires, the main components of these fields, contain tire ingredients, such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury and a number of dangerous hydrocarbons with potential toxicity especially in direct contact with children.

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