Does Biden Consider Artificial Turf “Conserved” Land?
Lawsuit to Uncover Turf Industry Greenwashing in 30×30 Conservation Plan
Washington, DC — The failure by the Biden administration to clarify whether it considers artificial turf as “conserved” land for purposes of its “America the Beautiful” program has drawn a lawsuit from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The suit seeks to determine whether the Biden administration has decided to subsidize a product containing toxic ingredients as part of a program that purports to further “green” goals.
Currently, the Biden administration is conducting public outreach on what should qualify lands and waters to count toward its promise to conserve 30% of American lands and waters by 2030. Yet, in statements to reporters Interior Department officials are quoted as claiming that America the Beautiful embraces everything “from synthetic turf to new wilderness lands.”
This fall, PEER filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records regarding whether Biden officials were already counting artificial turf within its definition of conserved lands, communications with the artificial turf industry, as well as on Interior funding installation of artificial turf on public lands. The agency not only declined to respond but has not indicated a date by which it would respond. Consequently, PEER today filed a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia demanding responsive documents.
“We suspect that artificial turf industry lobbyists are attempting to greenwash their product through uninformed federal officials,” stated Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal, noting the growing controversy about the adverse health and environmental effects from artificial turf fields. “If the Biden administration considers artificial turf to be a conserved land, they may as well include parking lots.”
There are an estimated 13,000 syn-turf fields in the U.S. Most utilize infill composed of thousands of shredded tires layered atop a plastic carpet. These artificial turf fields expose children and athletes to intimate contact with an array of toxic chemicals, such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium. In recent years, PEER led a successful campaign to induce federal agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to drop their endorsements of shredded tire infill for precisely that reason.
PEER has also shown that the artificial turf blades themselves contain toxic PFAS, the “forever chemical” that can leach into adjacent soil and waters. This poses another unknown and largely uncontrolled public health concern about artificial turf fields.
In addition, and despite manufacturers’ claims, old artificial turf is not recycled when it is removed. Artificial turf fields have a design life of eight to ten years. At that point, the old turf is sent to a landfill or, sometimes, it is illegally dumped. PEER has collected turf manufacturer claims their product is recyclable or is currently being recycled in the U.S. However, there are no turf recycling facilities within the U.S., and the only plant on the planet, in Denmark, is not accepting artificial turf from the U.S.
“Artificial turf poses public health risks and spreads toxic chemicals in the environment,” added PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA. “The last thing the Biden administration should be doing – especially in a conservation program – is pushing artificial turf.”