Artificial turf was originally used for athletic fields but has expanded its market to residential and commercial properties as a low-maintenance strategy of adding green elements to a space.
A comprehensive artificial turf product includes both “turf” and “infill.” Turf consists of green synthetic fibers. Infill consists of small particles of rubber or synthetic polymers, plant or mineral-derived particles, or a combination. 1
One of the cheapest infill options, “crumb rubber,” is made from ground up recycled tire scrap. 3 Research shows that synthetic turf and crumb rubber are hazardous to human health because they contain chemicals that are linked to health effects such as asthma and cancer. 3 When these elements heat up under the sun, they emit toxic chemicals left to be inhaled.
Alternative infill options which may be marketed as clean and safe have been found to be treated with antimicrobials which are associated with developmental, hormonal, and reproductive problems. 2 You can learn more about antimicrobials on our website. Even natural infill options, such as cork, coconut fiber, walnut shells, rice husks, or wood particles, come with their own challenges and tend to develop mold, which is a respiratory hazard. 2
Areas of concern:
Synthetic turf has various health and environmental concerns throughout its life, including:
It seems like there are no truly healthy options for synthetic turf. A hazard identification approach suggests the ground surface with the least hazardous effects to human health and our environment is pesticide-free natural grass. 2
When possible, try to use natural grass instead of synthetic turf. When synthetic turf can’t be avoided, follow these guidelines: 1
If you would like to learn more about the hazard identification approach, check out this video from the Health Building Network regarding the Turf Hazard Spectrum.