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Take Action Against Toxic Turf

03/09/2016 02:37 EST | Updated 03/10/2017 05:12 EST
Brandon Bourdages via Getty Images
Fake Grass used on sports fields

If you aren't outraged, then you just aren't paying attention.

It's true.

The introduction and popularity of artificial, toxic turf in playing fields and playgrounds throughout Toronto (and well beyond), is shocking, terrifying, and absolutely something we should ALL be outraged about -- and taking action on, now.

THE GENERAL ISSUE

Despite the known and documented health and environmental hazards of the artificial turf (including dangerous levels of lead!), many of our local schools have already switched, and are continuing to switch from real fields to toxic turf.

In addition to benzene and lead, the list of toxins that have been discovered on artificial turf fields includes mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, arsenic, and other carcinogenic compounds. -Jared Firestone, The Expert Institute

Grass (remember grass?) acts as a natural filter and requires comparatively less water. It absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen in its place. For every natural green space the turf replaces, we are losing important outdoor spaces that contribute to the physical and emotional health of the communities who use our fields.

I started my journey in the quest for strong laws on toxic chemicals because quite simply I am a mother and I am tired of feeling like I have to have a PhD in toxicology in order to be a competent parent." ~Jennifer Beals

PROS AND CONS OF ARTIFICIAL TURF

What are the benefits of installing petrochemical, artificial turf? Our schools will have year-round playing time.

By contrast, the list of cons is enormous:

Our kids inhale the toxins, carcinogencs, and hormone distruptors released from the turf's crumb rubber infill (made from old tires).

The turf is conducive to dangerously high heat levels in warm weather.

There is an increased risk of injuries, abrasions, and antibiotic-resistant staph infections.

The petrochemical turf pollutes our water and threatens nearby plants and wildlife.

Large amounts of water and chemicals are required for cleaning artificial turf.

The field must be replaced every 7-10 years (which is expensive and difficult). And, where do you think the toxic material goes when disposed of?

The tiny granules of crumb rubber stick to skin, clothing, and shoes, and get tracked into schools, homes, and cars. By the way, this crumb rubber is frighteningly problematic:

This crumb rubber is a material that cannot be legally disposed of in landfills or ocean-dumped because of its toxicity. Why on earth should we let our children play on it? ~Patti Wood, Executive Director of Grassroots Environmental Education

Coach Amy Griffin began cataloging the names of every soccer player diagnosed with cancer that she could find, a list that nearly doubled within a year from 34 to 64 total patients. - David Wolfe

READ + WATCH

The Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science: Study Led By Gaboury Benoit Looks At Chemicals In Synthetic Playing Surfaces

The Globe and Mail: Proposed Sports Field at Toronto School Raises Debate Over Rubber Turf

The New York Times: On Artificial Turf Issue, U.S. Women Dig In at Last

WHAT TO DO NOW

Visit NoToxicTurf.ca for resources on how to take action, including templates for writing letters to the Toronto District School Board, Toronto Public Health, Politicians, and Reporters.

The Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition also has a number of ongoing initiatives empowering people like you to make a difference locally and politically.

It's urgent that we prevent toxic turf from replacing our healthy, safe, and real fields, wherever possible. Let's turn our outrage into meaningful action, together.

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