Here is what the manufacturers of the materials coming to the Walter Johnson Athletic field say about their product:
FieldTurf's grass fibers are surrounded and stabilized by a special blend of synthetic earth - FieldTurf's patented mixture of smooth, rounded silica sand and rubber granules.
The rubber granules are a key component. Tire rubber is cryogenically frozen,
shattered into smooth, clean, rounded particles, sized and shaped to stay in
suspension with the sand, which is of a similar size, shape and weight.
Rubber granules from tires?
Yes. Here is what the experts from Mount Sinai's Center for Excellence in Childrens Environmental Health say about these components:
The major chemical components of crumb rubber are styrene and butadiene, the
principal ingredients of the synthetic rubber used for tires in the United
States. Styrene is neurotoxic. Butadiene is a proven human carcinogen.
It has been shown to cause leukemia and lymphoma. The crumb rubber pellets
that go into synthetic turf fields also contain lead, cadmium and
other metals. Some of these metals are included in tires during manufacture,
and others picked up by tires as they roll down the nation’s streets and
highways. There is a potential for all of these toxins to be inhaled,
absorbed through the skin and even swallowed by children who play on
synthetic turf fields.
Lead was recently found in synthetic turf fields in New Jersey at levels so high that several fields were closed by the state Health Department.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were so concerned, they issued a Health Advisory, and recommended the following precautions for families with children younger than age six:
Children ages 6 and younger are most susceptible to lead’s harmful health
effects. To protect the public, in particular young children, consider
posting signs indicating that:
1. After playing on the field, individuals are encouraged to perform aggressive
hand and body washing for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm
2. Clothes worn on the field should be taken off and turned inside out as soon as possible after using the field to avoid tracking contaminated dust to other
places. In vehicles, people can sit on a large towel or blanket if it is not
feasible to remove their clothes. These clothes, towels, and blankets should be
washed separately and shoes worn on the field should be kept outside of the
3. Eating while on the field or turf product is discouraged.
4. Avoid contaminating drinking containers with dust and fibers from the
field. When not drinking, close them and keep them in a bag, cooler, or other covered container on the side of the field.
And the response from Dr. Weast and the Board of Education?
Dr. Weast assured the audience that Phil Andrews did a thorough evaluation and determined that artificial turf is safe for our county playing fields. You can find Mr. Andrew's assessment in the memos accompanying the County Council's Education Committee decision to approve the turf at Richard Montgomery HS. memo1 memo 2
And Pat O'Neill? As an alum of Walter Johnson HS and a mom of two MCPS graduates, she is very concerned about geese poop on the fields. Her recommendation? Post a sign that says, don't ingest the turf. Does this mean that our MCPS kindergartners can practice reading those signs to their younger sibs? What a bonus benefit.