In the last few years, considerable evidence has emerged that indicates that synthetic turf (also known as artificial turf) creates serious health concerns. As of January 2016, there are over 200 cases of lymphoma & other cancers in young athletes who played on synthetic turf. It’s especially disturbing to see many cases of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, which is generally quite rare among young people.
Please follow the links below for more information on this and other questions about turf.
Most people assume that synthetic turf fields must be safe or schools and colleges wouldn’t have them. Unfortunately, there have been no adequate tests that prove these claims — so no matter how many lists of studies they compile, they don’t prove the fields are safe. To be meaningful, tests must look at (1) long-term, low-level exposure and (2) synergy — the compounding effect of exposure to multiple chemical compounds — including exposure through multiple pathways such as inhalation, ingestion by mouth, and skin contact. (All of which are common for athletes on synthetic turf.)
In 2013 — and again in 2015 — the EPA withdrew earlier safety assurances and called for new, more-comprehensive studies. In February 2016, EPA announced plans for a multi-year joint study with the Centers for Disease Control and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
|If you or your children play on synthetic turf or playgrounds, we urge you to
review these pages carefully — and insist that schools stop risking athletes’ health.
Note: Also see Peter Crownfield’s blog post on high-usage fields, health claims, and costs.
At this time, there are no absolute answers about health & safety. We do know that the materials used contain chemical compounds known to cause reproductive disorders, birth defects, cancer, infertility, and developmental disorders. Since it is clear that synthetic turf could present serious risks to human health and the environment, the precautionary principle (and common sense) tells us it is better to be safe than sorry.
Users and parents are entitled to clear information about the health hazards and steps they can take to protect their health. For those who have to play on synthetic turf fields, we have compiled suggestions to help protect your health. Field owners should provide clear warning signs, and coaches and team sponsors should make sure athletes follow the warnings.
- What Is Synthetic Turf?
- What Do Athletes Think?
- Health & Safety Concerns
- Turf Burns – First Aid & Treatment
- Antibiotic-Resistant Infections – MRSA
- Environmental Pros & Cons
- Cost – Natural Turf v. Synthetic
- Play It Safe – Recommendations for Athletes, Parents, & Institutions
- Sources & Links for More Information
- Open Letter to Anyone Considering Synthetic Turf
These pages on Synthetic Turf are based on research and analysis completed in May 2015 by Kendall Garden [Lehigh ’16] and Peter Crownfield. Contact us by email
[updated August 2016]
- Play It Safe – synthetic turf poster 913 [reduced-size version]
- Synthetic Turf Concerns Summary [leaflet] (low-resolution version)
- 12 reasons why synthetic turf fields pose a health risk [EHHI]12 reasons why synthetic turf fields pose a health risk [EHHI]