Unless you spent the majority of 2009 under a rock, I’m sure you’re familiar with the ongoing debate over the safety of artificial turf, particularly, crumb rubber infill. Concerns about the infill, including reduced air quality and the presence of lead, have prompted extensive research and testing by various agencies. As more and more study results are being published, evidence seems to support that the material poses no hazard to athletes. The EPA recently released the results of a limited field monitoring study of artificial turf playing fields and playgrounds constructed with recycled tire material.

Highlights of the EPA’s study findings include:

  • Particulate matter, metals and volatile compound concentrations were measured in the air samples and compared with areas away from the turf fields (background levels). The levels found in air samples from the artificial turf were similar to background levels.
  • No tire-related fibers were observed in the air samples.
  • All air concentrations of particulate matter and lead were well below levels of concern.
  • More than 90 percent of the lead in the tire crumb material was tightly bound and unavailable for absorption by field users.
  • Zinc, which is known as an additive in tires, was found in the crumb samples. However, air and surface wipe monitoring levels of zinc were found to be below levels of concern.

The information gathered from the study will be discussed in a meeting this spring in which the EPA will meet with officials from state and federal agencies to evaluate what steps should be taken to ensure athlete safety on synthetic fields.

A safe field is the main priority of any groundskeeper, and ongoing evaluations, research and development will provide even more information, and equipment, to help ensure the safety of your athletes.

Katie Meyers