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Question from Shannon Rice


I am a mother who desperately needs information on the safety of synthetic turf. We have a very small (150 sq.ft) patch of grass that we are considering replacing with synthetic turf for our kids to play on. I’ve done quite a bit of research but can’t seem to find a bottom line answer about its safety for humans. Most synthetic turf is considered to be an environmentally friendly product since it eliminates the need for watering, fertilizing, chemical use and gas pollutants from lawn mowers. But, does that mean its safe for humans to be in contact with? Do you have any concise information on this topic?

Thanks for your time!

Debra’s Answer

OK, I’m going to get on my soapbox now because you’ve just hit one of my pet peeves. And that is when people claim products to be green without looking at the whole picture.

I did a little research and found that Astroturf brand synthetic turf is made from polyethylene plastic. According to the Synthetic Turf Council, in North America, infill synthetic turf systems used for sportsfields use polypropylene or polyethylene. Non-infill systems, ( golf and landscape), also use nylon.

Yes, you don’t have to water or maintain it, but it is also made from a nonrenewable resource that will not biodegrade. To me, the most important environmental consideration is how does the material cycle through the ecosystem? A substance that is not renewable or biodegradable cannot be green to me because ultimately it doesn’t work at all in the natural ecosystem.

Grass, on the other hand, is renewable and biodegradable and a part of nature. And it can be maintained organically.

Synthetic turf may offer a short term partial solution, but real grass is what Mother Nature designed, and I’m going to stick with that.

As to whether or not polyethylene is safe to touch, it’s one of the least toxic plastics, and if it’s outdoors where any outgassing would dissipate…I’m not concerned about health effects as much as I’m concerned about how long this patch of synthetic turf is going to sit in the landfill when you are done with it.

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