The ‘grass’s synthetic turf (also known as artificial turf) is plastic, usually high-density polyethylene, polypropylene, or nylon. The tufts of grass are attached to a blanket or membrane and supported by the infill material. Some turf systems use little coils of polyethylene or nylon (sometimes called ‘thatch’) to provide additional support.
The pesky little black beads found on most artificial turf fields are ‘crumb rubber’, used as an infill material to support the grass. Most crumb rubber is made from recycled automotive tires and contains many harmful compounds. The exact mix varies from field to field, but common ingredients include latex, silica, black carbon, lead, zinc, barium, & selenium.
The infill ingredients are associated with a variety of health and safety issues — see Health & Safety Concerns.
Illustration by Lauren Carney
- 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 19 May 2015]