Artificial Turf: Testimony on Alternative Infills

Nancy Alderman's Testimony: Why Proposed Cork and Coconut Infill Material for Synthetic Turf Fields Is Also Not A Safe Option – Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission, August 23, 2016

The information below was presented to Marlborough, MA officials by a synthetic turf consult, Activitas, a Massachusetts Landscape and Design Architectural Firm based in Dedham, Massachusetts. They were presenting alternative infill choices to a Massachusetts school that was interested in alternative infills instead of using crumb rubber.

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"In a report sent to Marlborough city officials, Activitas presented alternative materials: one being organic cork and coconut hull mixture.

The organic infill does not have the unpleasant odor often associated with fields that use crumb rubber and is very easily recycled. However, if it is not properly maintained it will compact and harden, affecting field performance and safety. The organic infill would cost the city an extra $450,000, according to the report."

Click to download pdf from Gale Associates

Below is additional information on coconut husks and cork infill material that was offered by Gale Associates, an Engineering and Planning Firm in Glastonbury, CT

This is what Gale Associates said about coconut husks and cork infill:

It has a natural tan/brown appearance, however it has low stability and an ability to decompose. It is 10% to 15% coconut husks and cork and 85% to 90% sand.

There are increased maintenance costs plus $180,000 for materials +$130,000 for resilient pad +$15,000 for Irrigation =$325,000 total net add on.

Environment and Human Health, Inc.'s comments follow:

The amount of sand in this product is an important factor. With 85% to 90% of the coconut husks and cork infill being proposed being sand — this is very important to understand. Inhaling sand or silica dust can cause a number of health issues such as silicosis, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These are well-known and researched health risks of silica.

Although all the synthetic turf infills have some sand added — this particular infill is mostly sand. We know from the studies done on the synthetic turf fields that contain crumb rubber, that as the synthetic turf fields are played on they create dust, and this dust is then available to be inhaled deeply into the lungs of athletes as they exercise on the fields. This is not good — and all this sand is not good either.

None of the alternative infills have been independently tested — and most if not all — look very problematic. We have no idea what breathing coconut husk and cork fibers will do to students' lungs — and in fact no one knows. This is yet one more experiment with students' health.

First schools and towns put down synthetic turf fields with 40,000 ground up rubber tires in them — even though that product had never been properly tested. Now we have schools and towns being wary of crumb rubber since independent entities have tested the product and found it contains carcinogens and heavy metals. So now what is happening? Schools and towns are running to yet other untested infills and paying even more money to have put them installed.

We will say again — as we have said before — if you would spend one-half the money you are going to spend on this synthetic turf field and put in a state-of-the-art grass field — you would be protecting your students' health and teaching them good environmental stewardship all at the same time.

— Nancy Alderman, President, Environment and Human Health, Inc.