Ward Street Grass Roots

A Hingham organization fighting for rational use of our Town’s resources

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Unknown Health Risks

FOURTH: from grass surfaces with health risks that we know about, to artificial turf surfaces that have yet to be proven safe both for the children who will be playing on them and for the environment.

Many of us question whether our children really need to play on artificial turf fields in order to be competitive. And many young adult athletes who grew up in Hingham have told us that they are glad they did not have to play on artificial turf. They say it’s like learning to ski on the ice in the East. If you learn to ski well here, you can ski anywhere. They would rather play on surface materials that they know to be safe, that feel good, that can handle goose poop naturally, and that give their bodies some rest when the conditions aren’t right for practice. They would encourage the town to spend a bit more money on a more organic form of fertilizer or Pearl’s Premium, a tougher natural grass, instead. And the NFL Player’s Association’s biennial poll of its players last year showed that their four favorite fields were grass: Arizona, Tampa, San Diego and Carolina.

We also believe that the materials contained in these surfaces are potentially hazardous to the health of our children and to the wildlife. The artificial turf surfaces are constantly being “improved,” so long-term effects have not been able to be studied. However, given what we know about the toxins that are in the original materials of crumb rubber and silica sand, we are reminded of such substances as asbestos, second-hand smoke, and even margarine.

Because this plan calls for a complete change of surface material from one that is known and natural to one that is too new to be tested because it is on its third generation in 20 years… we believe that the town should take a hard look at all available data and not automatically approve this plan because all the other towns are doing it.

Effects on Health

New generation “crumb rubber” artificial turf fields have been in use for adult sports facilities for several years. While there are many environmental objections there appears to be minimal health issues in adults. The Ward  Street Field Project is now proposed for use by children.  Children are not small adults; they differ in many important aspects.

The most important are:

a. large body surface area to total body mass making them susceptible to overheating
b. Immature, rapidly developing central nervous system (brain), immune and hematopoietic (blood and lymphatic) systems leaving them susceptible to toxins and carcinogens



During summer, temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit are common 3 feet above the surface.
There is  real risk of heat stroke in children.  If proposed parking lots are full is there ambulance access and turnaround at a 2nd field emergency?


Turf abrasions with secondary infection with MRSA; usually require IV antibiotics, and often surgical excision.  Two fatalities reported.


Chemicals and heavy metals leach from the crumb rubber infill as the fields age and wear.

a. chemical compounds

1. toxins  –  irritation and corrosion of human tissue
2. carcinogens  –  8 human cancer causing agents identified

b. heavy metals

1. Zinc – toxic to aquatic animals and lethal to plants (consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen)
2. Lead

a. A highly toxic, cumulative metal in low doses causing brain damage in children
b. NY City has suspended construction of all synthetic fields.
c. Legislation filed in NJ, MN, and the city of LA to place a moratorium on crumb rubber field  construction.
d. Total ban on crumb rubber field construction in Norway and Sweden


The pellets are tracked home on cleats, clothing and skin.
CDC recommendations issued June 2008 and remain unchanged:

a. Food and drink (other than for hydration) not consumed on the field
b. If locker room available, cleats placed in a plastic bag; uniform turned inside out
c. If driven home, child sits on a towel, cleats remain out side in a plastic bag, the uniform and towel laundered as soon as possible
d. Child showers as soon as possible

With tracked-home crumb rubber, the children and their siblings are exposed to these toxins 24 hours a day for weeks on end.


Toxins leach out of the fields into the ground water with possible contamination of adjacent private wells and the water shed.  How will Hingham fund the state required inspections and testing, and if needed the hazardous waste clean up?


When the field needs replacement the components that are toxic and carcinogenic need to be     transported to a hazardous waste land fill at what expense to the Town?

A careful long term and independent assessment of synthetic turf fields and health hazards to children needs to be carried out before any decision can be made (not a sales pitch by the manufactures for that is the “fox guarding the chicken coop”).  Due diligence is critical and risk management is essential for the physical well-being of our children, and the fiscal well being
of our Town.

Effects of Turf Fields on the Environment:

Impacts on Health statement by Dr. Joseph Iovino
CT Agricultural Experiment Station’s Research Study here
EPA Exposure Research Study here
Coastal Marine Resource Center Policy Statement Effects of Artificial Turf on the Environmen
Other Issues: a list of questions by Kurt Tramposch, expert in environmental health here