No one is profiting from this field except the synturf manufacturer

To the Editor:

The Oct. 7 vote on the Guilderland school capital improvement project bond is truly a difficult one for me. I strongly support funding for education and appreciate the school board’s hard work, but I will vote “no” on this school bond.

The project contains many much-needed improvements to the school, but the installation of a synthetic turf playing field should be removed from the bond measure. I will readily support a revised budget without the $2.5 million synturf field expenditure.

Many schools, including Guilderland, are seizing upon this moment when there is an influx of coronavirus relief funds as an opportune time to fund projects that have been waylaid by previous tight budgets, but synturf isn’t a good thing to fund at any time. It’s not good for our community or good for our students.

Here are some of the concerns about synthetic turf raised by health and environmental researchers as well as athletes:

— Heat. In the sun, synturf surfaces heat up to unsafe temperatures of as high as 150 degrees or more, causing athletes to suffer burns and other heat-related problems. (Williams and Pulley, op. cit.; ISA Sport USA “Turf and infill temperature evaluation,” June 30, 2012);

— Toxicity. The plastic grass carpet and rubber crumb infill of a synthetic turf playing field contain lead, and toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that expose children to serious health risks. (National Center for Health Research Comments on CPSC [Consumer Product Safety Commission] for FY 2021-2022);

— Injury. Higher overall injury rates for athletes playing on synthetic turf versus natural grass have been documented by professional sports players, including the U.S. Women’s soccer team “Claiming bias, female players sue U.S. soccer” (Andrew Das, New York Times, March 9, 2019 p. 16.). The soccer team finally won the right to play World Cup matches on safer, natural grass as the men’s team does.

The NFL Player’s League Association president advocated for natural grass fields for all teams, citing official injury reports between 2012 and 2018. The reports showed 28 percent more injuries overall for players playing on synthetic turf; 69 percent higher noncontact ankle and foot injuries. (“NFLPA President Tretter Calls for NFL Teams to Remove Artificial Turf,” Torrey Hart, Sept. 30, 2020 in Front Line Sports). U.S. Men’s soccer and the vast majority of professional baseball games are played on natural grass; and

— Disposal. With a useful life of eight to 10 years on average — the Guilderland synturf supplier provides a 10-year warranty for a well-maintained field — an estimated 500,000 pounds of plastic grass carpet and tire crumb rubber infill will end up in a landfill. (TURI-UMASS Lowell, TURI+Report+2018). TURI is the Toxic Use Reduction Institute.

At a time the world is grappling with climate change, it’s astonishing that schools in Guilderland, a Climate Smart Community, could be contemplating a project that creates a “heat island,” off-gasses  inhalable Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), requires the removal or organic soil, requires regular treatment with chemicals, disperses many thousands of pounds of microplastics into the environment annually, prevents groundwater discharges, contributes to flooding, contributes to global warming, and as the field wears out, requires disposal of massive amounts of mostly petroleum waste every decade.

No one is profiting from this field except the synturf manufacturer, especially not our schoolchildren who have a whole lifetime after high school sports ahead of them.

Please vote “no” on the GCSD capital improvement project bond and support a revised budget that does not contain artificial turf.

Fran Porter


Editor’s note: Fran Porter is part of the Plastics-Free Future group that formed locally, inspired by a Bennington College course taught by Judith Enck.


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