Sunday, September 12, 2010

City Should Be Cautious About Synthetic Turf - Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito -City Conversations - City Limits Magazine -

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The issue of synthetic turf appears deceptively simple. With such a high demand for recreational open space throughout our city and a rising obesity epidemic, who would not want to facilitate greater use of our athletic fields? However, the debate over the proliferation of synthetic turf in our public parks is far more complicated than it appears at first glance. In evaluating these surface materials, policymakers must balance the health, environmental and safety implications of this surface material with community members’ desire for reliable, all-weather recreational space.
Synthetic turf has generated significant public and media attention in recent years, which has served to highlight a number of the dangers that have come along with its expanded usage on play fields. One synthetic turf field here in New York City, Jefferson Park in East Harlem, was closed by the City due to elevated levels of lead found on the ground; a number of these fields in New Jersey have also been closed for the same reason. An increase in the number of severe burns endured by children playing on the fields prompted the New York City Department of Health to commission a report, which indicated that excessive temperatures do occur on synthetic turf fields. Aside from the severe burns, synthetic turf also presents risks for other athletic injuries. It has been widely reported that New York Giants wide receiver Domenik Hixon severely injured his knee in a non-contact injury at the New Meadowlands Stadium that may have been caused by the synthetic turf field that was installed. After many concerns were raised about the environmental risks posed by the usage of crumb rubber infill from recycled tires, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation announced that they were no longer going to install this type of turf in the City’s parks.