In the District, children have been endangered by surface temperatures that have been measured in excess of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
For years, children in the District have been endangered by playing fields that are excessively hard, far out of compliance with any safety standards. Until last year, the District did not correctly monitor Gmax testing of field hardness (called impact attenuation) to ensure even a minimum safety standard to prevent injuries when children fall. A score of 165 or higher is considered too dangerous for children by the Synthetic Turf Council. Dozens of DCPS playing fields exceeding that 165 score remain in service with no remediation at all.
Claims from vendors or industry-funded scientists that the materials are proven safe are inaccurate. Misleading claims that there is “no evidence” of harm does not mean that the synthetic systems are proven to be safe. On the contrary, concerns about safety have been documented by independent scientists noted above, and were examined during the Obama Administration by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).The CPSC and EPA reviews were not completed as expected in 2016 or 2017, and it is not clear whether those reviews are held to the scientific standards that had previously been established.
In addition to the health risks to school children and athletes, approximately three tons of infill materials migrate off of each synthetic turf field into the greater environment each year. About 2-5 metric tons of infill, such as tire crumb, must be replaced every year for each field, meaning that tons of the infill have migrated off the field into grass, water, and our homes,and the fields also continuously shed microplastics as the plastic blades break down. These materials may contain additives such as PAHs, flame retardants, UV inhibitors, etc., which can be toxic to marine and aquatic life; and microplastics are known to migrate into the oceans, food chain, and drinking water and can adsorb and concentrate other toxins from the environment.
Synthetic surfaces also create heat islands.In contrast, organically managed natural grass saves energy in urban areas by dissipating heat, cooling the air, and reducing energy to cool nearby buildings. Natural grass and soil protect groundwater quality, biodegrade polluting chemicals and bacteria, reduce surface water runoff, and abate noise and reduce glare.
Halt all installation of synthetic playgrounds and playing fields.
Remove synthetic playgrounds and playing fields instead of renovating them or replacing with new synthetic materials.
Prioritize proper installation and maintenance of ADA compliant natural surfaces.
Solicit public ideas for increasing the inventory of playing fields and recreation opportunities.