Boston bans artificial turf due to toxic chemicals


Do you want more of it? That’s what you’ll be getting if the town’s plan to add two more artificial turf fields to the three we already have gets approved by the Board of Ed and Town Council.

And Boston’s not alone. A number of other cities in Massachusetts and in California and Connecticut have enacted bans, and artificial turf has been rejected by towns in New Jersey.

Why? Because artificial turf contains toxic PFAS compounds in both the standard crumb rubber infill and in the plastic grass and its backing. While in a small percentage of fields alternatives to crumb rubber have been tried, some of these contain other toxic material, and those employing natural material such as cork degrade rather quickly and float and migrate in heavy rain and result in dust which can be inhaled and absorbed. These alternatives also cost significantly more, often require a shock pad, and have to be replaced regularly, resulting in much more expense than crumb rubber. Moreover, the toxicity in the plastic grass and its backing remains.

PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they don’t naturally break down, and are linked to cancer, liver problems, thyroid issues, birth defects, kidney disease, decreased immunity, and other serious health problems. They can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled, ingested, or get in open wounds, and children are considered more vulnerable than adults. Following extensive study, the EPA has recently labelled PFAS “hazardous”.

Playing on artificial turf has also been shown to result in more injuries than playing on grass – which is why NFL players are pressuring the league to ban it while the U.S. National Soccer Teams won’t play on it.

And how much will Westfield taxpayers shell out so that the town and out of town youth in local sports clubs can play on two more artificial turf fields? About $24 million over 30 years when you take into consideration initial cost, maintenance and replacement and disposal. The town’s paid “expert” claims the figure will be much lower, but that estimate isn’t based upon normal current and future turf costs, and it assumes turf life expectancy to be far in excess of Westfield’s experience with its existing fields.

According to Kyla Bennett, a former EPA official and Director of Science Policy at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibilities:

“It’s only a matter of time before [artificial turf] is banned…. In a few years we’re going to be asking, ‘How on earth did we ever allow this to happen?’”

Is there an alternative to artificial turf which will provide adequate field time for Westfield athletes? You bet! Fields of natural grass under the supervision of professional field management, which will not only be safer, but will also be far cheaper.

The town has structured their plan such that the voters won’t be allowed to vote on it. If you don’t want to be paying for two more fields that are a threat to the health of the town youth and you want your voice to be heard, then contact the mayor and members of the Town Council and Board of Ed and tell them that YOU WANT GRASS!

Citizens for Responsible Athletic Field Development (“CRAFD”)