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Editorial: Note: Precautions for Artificial Turf Use

NYS Senator Carl Marcellino, an environmental advocate sent a newsletter to his constituents about the “Launch of North Shore Medical Group Center for Excellence in Children’s Environmental Health.”

It stated: “Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s Center for Excellence in Children’s Environmental Health now has a second center to its credit in Huntington.

“The center, which hosted a remote opening at Rainbow Chimes in Huntington, was established at the North Shore Medical Group at 241 E. Main Street and funded by a $500,000 grant secured by Senator Carl Marcellino.

“The Center will provide consultations, referrals and medical care for children with diseases of suspected toxic environmental origin and children exposed to toxins,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, who chairs the department, and educates the community through outreach.

“It will serve as a source of second opinion,” he said. Dr. Landrigan also said, “Doctors at Mt. Sinai are investigating toxin and endocrine disruptor links to asthma, learning disabilities and conditions on the autism spectrum by tracking children in 105 counties from conception to age 21. Treating toxic disease in children costs about $55 billion per year nationally, of which $6 billion is accrued in New York.”

“If we can prevent even a small percentage [of toxic disease], we can save all the money that Governor Paterson’s looking for [in his budget cuts],” Landrigan said.

More Information

The Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center has an informational piece on “What to Know About Turf Fields.”

The first question it asks is “Which turf fields are of concern?” The answer is, “Not all turf fields are constructed the same way. Second generation turf fields are layered synthetic surfaces. Of concern are the ‘infilled’ fields, which consist of blades of plastic green grass infilled with a mixture of crumb rubber pellets and sand or just crumb rubber.”

According to Matt Russo, when he spoke to members of the East Norwich Civic Association, the town is planning to use crumb rubber and sand to fill the plastic green grass to create a playing surface. According to Mt. Sinai, “Infill crumb rubber consists of tiny black pellets or granules, approximately 1 mm in diameter. The granules are often made from recycled tires and are spread two or three inches thick over the field surface.”

What is of interest in Mt. Sinai material about the fields (see their website This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) is that there are tips for safe use of the turf fields, some of which we haven’t seen mentioned anywhere.

We have been told that the turf fields should not be used on extremely hot days. We have not been told (to our knowledge) that parents should be concerned about the material. The information states:

• Be sure to clean and monitor any “turf burns” obtained while playing.

• Attempt to remove all pellets from shoes and clothing prior to leaving the fields.

• At home, shake out your children’s equipment and clothes in the garage or over the garbage.

• Have your child shower and wash thoroughly after playing on the field.

So it comes down to more concern for parents – has anyone told the parents what their new task is in relation to the pellets? They also have to teach this important lesson to their children about playing on the turf fields – they have to get rid of the toxic materials they are playing on.

The Mt. Sinai information states, “What is not yet known is the extent to which these chemicals [in the recycled tires] may get in to the bodies of children playing on turf fields, their associated health risks, or the extent to which they may leach from the fields into the surrounding environment, soil and groundwater.”

Another question the information asks and answers is “How can people be exposed to these chemicals?”

It said, “The main routes of exposure are through inhalation and ingestion. Athletes are expected to have the greatest exposure level due to high ventilation rates associated with exercise and the possibility of inhaling dust particles kicked up by their play. People on the sidelines will have lower exposures; however, young children should be monitored. to prevent ingestion of the rubber pellets. It is also possible for the pellets to be tracked off the fields and into homes and washer and dryers.”

So what is your view of artificial turf fields after reading the precautionary information about its use. Is the expected savings in maintenance worth the problems? We don’t think it is, but what do you think?