letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: GG Park’s Artificial Turf is Toxic

Editor,

When you take your dog to the newly renovated Dog Training Area in Golden Gate Park, you may want to avoid letting your dog play on the artificial turf installed there. It may not be good for the dog’s health or for your own health either, for that matter.  Before venturing into the Dog Training Area, you may want to consider some of the reporting on artificial grass.

“Used tire rubber is put through a cracker mill, producing crumb rubber — tiny pellets of rubber, still carrying those thousands of unknown chemicals. Crumb rubber is then used to manufacture artificial turf and playground surface cover. A 2015 report by Yale scientists analyzed 14 different samples used for school athletic fields and playgrounds. They detected 96 chemicals, most of which have never been carefully studied. The National Center for Health Research has identified lead, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, and other chemicals that harm human health. Ingesting these chemicals is not advised. Unfortunately, they can get into a child’s bloodstream in other ways. The steam from a playground surface on a sunny day can be inhaled. Any scrape or skin burn invites exposure. Simply rolling on the surface can allow seepage into the skin’s pores.”  – Don Kahle, The Register-Guard, Eugene OR 12/13/2020

“Scientists have shown that both the grass-like blades and the backing of artificial turf contain PFAS, highly toxic fluorinated chemicals. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” since they accumulate in the body and do not break down. They have been linked to endocrine disruption and cancer. Children are especially vulnerable to harm from PFAS because of their developing bodies and the chemicals’ persistence in the body. In a recent New York Times Op Ed piece (What Are Sperm Telling Us?), we read that ‘Chemical companies are as reckless as tobacco companies were a generation ago, or as opioid manufacturers were a decade ago. They lobby against even safety testing of endocrine disruptors, so that we have little idea if products we use each day are damaging our bodies or our children. We’re all guinea pigs.’  Most people think manufacturers must prove that chemicals are safe before they put them on the market. They are wrong. Weak and outdated federal law presumes that most chemicals are safe until proven toxic.” –  Real Grass for Healthy Kids!  greenwichfreepress  March 12, 2021

Synthetic turf should not have been used in the renovation of the Golden Gate Park Dog Training Area or anywhere in our parks and playgrounds.  We should use natural grass turf. San Francisco cannot afford the liability and environmental consequences of plastic grass. Is the “City that knows how” unable to maintain some grass in our parks?  Plastic grass  (synthetic turf)  is subject to high temperatures, it is scratched (think of dogs playing on it) and degraded from use and it deteriorates over time due to exposure to the elements. Micro-particles of plastic are constantly being released into the environment.

Rubberized surfaces are mostly recycled tire rubber. We rarely have high temperatures in San Francisco, but plastic grass and rubberized surfaces heat up well above the ambient air temperature. Even in San Francisco, temperatures are more than hot enough to “facilitate the release of chemicals … linked to numerous negative health effects.” Is the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department somehow exempt from the responsibility of not letting plastic pollute our environment?

“A garbage truck worth of plastic empties into the ocean every minute. Worldwide, humankind produces over 300 million tons of plastic each year, and this is increasing. Researchers believe as many as 51 trillion fragments of plastic ― known as microplastic (characterized as pieces under 5 mm) ― are polluting waterways and marine environments.”  Author:Lucy Siegle, printed in the Huffington Post

Single use plastic bags are being banned. Plastic straws are being phased out or banned. Why would anyone think it was a good idea to put plastic grass in Golden Gate Park?  Artificial turf only lasts 8-10 years and then it has to be ripped out and becomes toxic waste that can’t be recycled. There is no good outcome to installing artificial turf. 

David Romano

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