Prince George’s County leaders needs to be responsive to people’s needs and aspirations and it is unfair for main players within the county not to be flexible.
One thing we won’t support is where people take their frustrations of losing in the last elections or in the Board of Education election or other polls into the activities of the Education community to siphon off cash from our education system for personal gain. You can’t mix political frustrations with other matters dear to the people.
We request leaders in the county to remain sensitive to the residents’ concerns as highlighted in our blogs and we persuade those involved in questionable activity to re-look at the areas in the Education Act which are hostile to the county especially the turf bill and others with a hidden agenda.
A lawn can be a lovely thing, pleasing to the eye and a place to chill out and unwind and even to play football as advanced by the turf bill here in Prince George’s County recently. But as with all things, the beauty and pleasure comes at a cost. The cost is one of time and effort as well as money and health risks. The alternative to natural grass is the synthetic option as advanced by the Prince George’s County politicians within the county schools. (Read more here). First created in the 1960s, synthetic grass was initially intended for use in sporting arenas like football stadiums where the maintenance of natural grass was costly and required investment in manpower and special equipment.
Artificial turf, usually constructed of polyethylene plastic grass and an in-fill base of “crumb rubber” from ground-up recycled tires (as many as 10,000 in a single field) have become increasingly popular in some communities without much thought to the process.
As more grass fields are converted to synthetic turf within the county (according to a spokesperson for the Synthetic Turf Council in Atlanta about 900 new synthetic turf fields were installed at schools nationwide in 2008), however, a debate has been heating up about possible health risks and the advantages and disadvantages of artificial turf fields as shown below. Since reform Sasscer movement is against the turf bill being advanced by some of the Prince George’s County politicians including County Executive Baker, let us start by examining the disadvantages of synthetic grass and then demand action.
Disadvantage of Synthetic Grass
The following list of disadvantages will help you balance the picture. After all, nothing is really perfect and keep them in mind as you call your elected officials including Governor Larry Hogan to say “No” to the turf bill for Prince George’s County.
- The upfront cost of installing synthetic grass can be very high, making it financially impractical.
- There is normally a rubber cushion below the surface to provide softness and bounce. This may require occasional re-filling. Politicians in Prince George’s county have not explained who will be in charge of occasional re-filling and maintenance fees.
- Synthetic grass can become unpleasantly hot in summer creating Heat hazard. The heat-absorbing properties of an artificial field make it too hot to play on in extremely warm weather. On a 98-degree day, the temperature on the turf could rise to more than 120 degrees. A Brigham Young University study found that the surface temperature of synthetic turf at its football practice field was 37 degrees higher than the air temperature. Proponents point out that use of the fields can be managed to ensure that athletes aren’t playing at the hottest times of the day and are adequately hydrated; as a result, they argue, the higher temperature is more of a comfort issue than safety issue.
- There are fears that the chemicals used in the manufacture of synthetic grass can be harmful to the health. Although manufacturers say that they meet health and safety standards, the debate remains inconclusive. For Example
- Excessive exposure to lead has been linked to severe mental retardation, stunted growth and death. As Don Mays, senior director of product safety at the Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, says, “There is no safe level of lead; let’s be clear on that.” The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, saying that there is no safe level of lead exposure and suggesting that levels in soil be no higher than trace amounts (40 parts per million).
- Older turf fields made from nylon or nylon/polyethylene blend fibers may contain levels of lead that pose a potential public health concern. Tests of artificial turf fields made with only polyethylene fibers showed that these fields contained very low levels of lead.
- Field Turf, the largest artificial turf manufacturer in North America, sells a lead-free artificial turf, but only if the community asksfor the custom-made field. The fields that most communities purchase use lead to brighten the field’s colors and for a sport team logo.
- Says Jackie Lombardo, a member of the Sierra Club National Toxics Committee, “We know older turf products contain toxic chemicals associated with asthma, learning disabilities, and cancer. Saying they are safe because they don’t contain lead is like saying cigarettes are safe because they don’t contain lead. There are so many chemicals in this synthetic grass and we don’t know what the effects are going to be not only on children’s health, but also what the effects are on the ground water as well.”
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has consistently recommended “the elimination of all non-essential uses of lead” because of the potential health hazards they pose and has long considered lead dust one of the biggest known health hazards to children; it notes that the combination of age, weathering, exposure to sunlight and wear and tear can cause dust containing lead to be released from older or well-used fields.
- Zinc hazard:A Connecticut-based environmental advocacy group, Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI), has been sounding warnings about artificial turf fields for a number of years and found support for its contentions in a preliminary study in 2007 by researchers at the Connecticut agricultural experiment station which examined the contents of “crumb rubber” and concluded that several potentially dangerous chemical compounds could escape into the air or leach into water under certain conditions. Levels of zinc found leaching into water were inordinately high. A study by University of North Carolina found a possible link between continued exposure to zinc and cardiovascular damage.
- Other harmful chemicals: according to EHHI, shredded rubber could contain other toxic metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and selenium.
- Toxic run-off.When an artificial field drains after a heavy rain, the run-off (which may contain lead and infill material) could leach into and contaminate a community’s ground and drinking water.
- Increased MRSA risk.Open skin lesions (so-called “turf burns”) put athletes at increased risk of MRSA. Studies have shown that athletes who use synthetic turf are seven times more likely to receive turf burns than those who play on natural grass. These open lesions are often the source of contracting and vehicle for spreading dangerous infections. In fact, a 2003 study of MRSA infections among St. Louis Rams football players found that all eight MRSA infections began at turf burn sites.
- Bacterial breeding ground. Medical experts have found that staphylococci and other bacteria can survive on polyethylene plastic, the compound used to make synthetic turf blades, for more than 90 days. Blood, sweat, skin cells and other materials can remain on the synthetic turf because the fields are not washed or cleaned.
- Adverse effect on asthmatics. Breathing in dust of ground-up tires could exacerbate breathing problems for asthmatics.
- Synthetic grass is not natural grass – it cannot offer the special scent of wet earth and grass or the sweet smell of freshly cut grass.
- Once artificial, always artificial.Once a community goes with artificial turf, it has no choice but to install another artificial turf field when the first one needs to be replaced because once plastic replaces natural grass, it kills any living organism in the subsoil making it impossible without years of soil remediation to grow anything on that surface.
The Advantages of Synthetic Grass
- Synthetic grass, once installed requires little in the way of maintenance – no watering or mowing is required.
- You save on the cost of water and buying and operating a lawn mower.
- No expensive fertilizers and weed killers need be bought.
- Because you do not need to use chemicals to grow or protect the grass, you are not adding to pollution levels and affecting the environment on an ongoing basis.
- You will not have to spend time pulling out weeds.
- Synthetic grass is long lasting and you will not have to incur the expense or hassles of period replanting that natural grass will require.
- Synthetic grass offers excellent drainage so after rain or the use of water to wash it, the grass it will dry quickly.
- The good drainage also means that you don’t have to worry about puddles of water collecting and lasting for days and then leaving patches of mud for the unwary to step in.
- Play sports on the lawn will not damage the grass.
- Synthetic grass always looks perfectly manicured so you will never be embarrassed by an unkempt lawn.
The Choice is yours
These are arguments for and against synthetic grass in the county schools and elsewhere. We also understand that there are fields that are tough to use due to drainage; we get that. But, again, let the school system decide how and when to deal with that on a case by case basis and with consideration of their overall list of priorities after a discussion or debate involving the community. Mandating a wholesale change to a specific turf product is not the answer within the county schools. The state legislature has FAR more important things to worry about – they need to get off this meddling kick of the county schools without any discussion of the concerned parties.
If all the above solid reasons sound like they make an airtight case for the use of synthetic grass, you should weigh the pros and cons identified carefully, with your objectives and needs in mind before making a final decision. We encourage the concerned parties to raise their voice and object further meddling.
Otherwise, call your elected officials now (Senate delegation here, house delegation here) and the media. Let us say “NO” to Synthetic grass in Prince George’s County Public Schools. It’s not too late to stop what appears to be a white elephant in the making. The money fueling this activity is tainted and made with profit racketeering in mind involving some of the key players in this saga. On this note, let us also demand transparency with Casino money which was promised to the schools. It’s about time to take back our communities and conserve the environment for the future generations!
>>> Read more about the bill here and oppose it ~>Turf Bill -hb0597F