No Plastic Turf with Toxic Chemicals in AUSD!
No Plastic Turf with Toxic Chemicals in AUSD!
Why this petition matters
Short term thinking could affect the health of our students and our community for the next decades and more. We need your help to convince our board members to look at the big picture: we need healthy and sustainable schools to build a community resilient to the challenges of environmental pollution and climate change.
Plastic turf is anything but healthy and sustainable. Yet, the Albany school district wants to install plastic turf again at Cougar Field. Scientific facts show that artificial turf is not healthy for our children and our community, nor is it a sustainable and financially responsible solution. We support the replacement of Cougar Field, but not with a toxic plastic turf.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS REGARDING PLASTIC TURF?
- Direct exposure of the students to PFAS, also called "forever chemicals", and linked to kidney and testicular cancer, liver disease, decreased fertility, thyroid problems, changes in hormone functioning, changes in the immune system.
- A higher risk of injuries
- Contribution to climate change and negative impact on the environment
- A much higher cost for AUSD over a 25 year period.
This is a $1.7M project and we regret that the community was never involved in the decision process. Other Bay Area school districts with similar projects started discussions with parents, teachers and staff more than a year in advance.
The district's proposal to swap tire crumb infill for an alternative infill is not sufficient to mitigate the litany of downsides to using plastic grass. Once the plastic turf is installed, its health and environmental impacts will last for hundreds of years. Many generations of students and community members will be impacted.
We understand that some families are worried about not having a sports field available in the Fall. It is possible to have a grass field in the Fall if the decision is made on Tuesday 5/10, during the next board meeting, and the school district starts working with a contractor right after. (This petition is about synthetic turf, NOT the track field.). And installing a grass field will cost us half of the budget of the artificial turf. That money could be used for other schools, like the much needed renovation of Cornell's schoolyard
The proposal to install plastic turf at Cougar Field is based on short term thinking and it will have long term consequences on the health of students and our community.
We have the budget to build a high quality natural grass sports field, made with a drought tolerant grass and a design that will reduce water consumption to a minimum. And it will cost us HALF of the investment necessary for the plastic turf
It's a sustainable investment for now and for the future. That's why we have to reject plastic turf!
LEARN MORE ABOUT ARTIFICIAL TURF MAIN ISSUES
1 - Direct exposure of the students to PFAS, also called “forever chemicals”
It’s a class of thousands of extremely persistent chemicals that accumulate in the environment and living organisms. PFAS have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, liver disease, decreased fertility, thyroid problems, changes in hormone functioning, changes in the immune system, and adverse developmental effects.
Firefighters are exposed to PFAS through their equipments and firefighting foams. This is what they wrote about a plastic turf project in Nantucket in Feb 2022.
It is proven that artificial turf contains PFAS in plastic carpets and shock pads.
California is one of several states that are currently developing PFAS restrictions. Bans on PFAS in food wrappers, children’s products, and firefighting foam will take effect in 2023.
There is no safe level of PFAS when it comes to children and teenagers: they are the most sensitive to these chemicals because of their rapidly developing bodies, especially during puberty.
In its PFAS Strategic Roadmap, the EPA has tasked local governments, including school districts, with preventing new PFAS contamination.
2 - Injuries
Playing on artificial turf causes more injuries than natural grass. A 2019 study specific to high schools found that athletes were 58 percent more likely to sustain an injury during athletic activity on artificial turf. Injury rates were significantly higher for football, soccer, and rugby athletes. Lower extremity, upper extremity, and torso injuries were also found to occur with a higher incidence on artificial turf. Another study based on NFL reports also shows more injuries on artificial turf than natural grass.
And finally, turf burns are frequent and can lead to serious staph infections (MSRA).
Our kids deserve the safest surface to play on.
3 - Contribution to climate change and environmental impacts
Artificial turf is made of plastic and has a huge carbon footprint.
Studies show that they emit methane when exposed to UV rays.
In addition, artificial turf absorbs heat and becomes an “island” of higher temperatures (also called heat islands), which worsen the effects of climate change by making our city hotter.
On the other hand, natural grass absorbs CO2 emissions and helps cool down our environment, making our city more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Finally, runoff from artificial turf contains pollutants like heavy metals and chemicals that have been shown to contaminate surface water or groundwater. Cerrito Creek runs under Cougar Field.
Local water suppliers like EBMUD have excluded plastic turf from their water conservation rebate programs.
Artificial turf is not a solution to the California drought: it has to be disinfected regularly, with water and chemicals. On hot days, water is needed to cool down the field before it can be used. And finally, in order to be efficient, the plant based infill (bottom layer) needs water to ensure a minimum moisture level.
We have more than enough budget to build a high quality grass field. With the right combination of smart design, humidity sensors, drought tolerant grass, efficient irrigation system and organic management, a natural grass field will not require watering more than once per week.
Down the road, we can also get a grant from EBMUD to install a recycled water system. This could reduce the field's water consumption to zero!
5 - Social Equity
Children and families who do not have access to an outdoor space at home rely on public parks and schoolyards. These should be welcoming places for families, not places that compromise their long-term health.
Even at the highest stage of water conservation, "Emergency water reduction" (stage 5), when San Jose Water prohibits water or irrigation of lawn, landscape, or other vegetated area with potable water (i.e. drinking water), it EXEMPTS school grounds and landscapes within active public parks and playing fields. Why? Because it’s an equity issue. As a community working together to share natural resources, is THE place to severely restrict water the shared field? A field that may serve as the only regular daily exposure to nature that hundreds of our kids in dense, urban developments get?
6 - Maintenance
ARTIFICIAL TURF IS NOT MAINTENANCE FREE! It requires daily maintenance, disinfection, repairs, regular testing, etc… and clauses in the warranty are adding limits to how the field can be used.
7 - Financial impact
Even if the shock pad (underlayer) is projected to last 25 years, the plastic carpet will have to be replaced 2 times over this period of time ($500K to $800K budget each time).
This is adding a financial burden on our school district and ties us to renewing the plastic turf twice over the next 25 years.
Real life examples show that grass is less expensive than an artificial turf over the full life cycle.
8 - Grass works
We heard a lot of negative feedback on grass sport fields. Mud, bumps, long downtimes: these issues all come from a poor initial design and a lack of maintenance.
Technologies have evolved a lot recently: we interviewed several local grass field managers who work in school districts and they all confirmed that with a good design and proper maintenance, grass is the best option for the students. We also heard from local athletes and coaches that grass is their favorite surface to play on.
Please don’t waste our kids' future and support our efforts to bring a sustainable and safe solution for Cougar Field!
All supporters of this cause are encouraged to sign and recruit the support of friends and neighbors.
(Please keep in mind that issues related to tire crumb infill are NOT pertinent to AUSD's proposal.)
1 - PFAS
It is proven that artificial turf contains PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a class of thousands of extremely persistent chemicals that accumulate in the environment and living organisms.
Two big concerns about PFAS in the turf blades and backing is the direct chemical exposure to , and the potential for PFAS to leach off the fields into groundwater, surface water and eventually, drinking water.
Video - Last Week Tonight on PFAS
The wood infill (Brockfill), the plastic blades and the shock pad (Brock shock pad) used in the KYA LLC proposal contain PFAS. These products have been tested by independent certified labs.
This week, the European Commission has announced their restrictions roadmap towards banning all flame retardants, all PFAS, all bisphenols and about 2,000 other harmful chemicals. According to an article in the Guardian, this is the “largest ever ban on dangerous chemicals.”
Class action lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers - May 2022
New Report Links PFAS Exposure to Liver Damage
Biden-Harris Administration Launches Plan to Combat PFAS Pollution
Rivers of Doubt - The North Georgia Water Crisis
TEFLON TOXIN SAFETY LEVEL SHOULD BE 700 TIMES LOWER THAN CURRENT EPA GUIDELINE
Major blow dealt to M.V. school's synthetic field project, as Planning Board votes no
2 - IMPACT ON CHILDREN AND TEENS HEALTH
Sarah Evans, PhD MPH, Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Grass and natural landscapes have a positive impact on mental health!
Green urban landscapes and school-level academic performance
Student performance and high school landscapes: Examining the links
Green Time: A Natural Remedy for ADHD Symptoms
3 - INJURIES
Synthetic Turf - Concussions & Other Safety Risks, Gmax & maintenance
Synthetic turf is not maintenance-free.
4 - ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
Artificial turf starts degrading as soon as it’s installed. The toxic chemicals mentioned above, as well as microplastics generated by the plastic blades, will leach into our environment and impact everyone in our community. When it rains, they will contaminate surface water and groundwater, and ultimately the Bay.
Moreover, plastic turf is made with toxic chemicals, it cannot be recycled and has to be landfilled.
The Dangerous Pileup of Artificial Turf (Dec 2019)
Artificial turf contributes to climate change and reduces resilience of Los Gatos in the face of climate-induced weather extremes
5 - NATURAL GRASS FIELDS
5- CA REGULATIONS
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control selected plastic grass as a priority product to study during its 2021-2023 cycle, citing concerns over PFAS chemicals. They are explicit that their concerns apply to both plastic grass systems that use recycled tire crumb infill as well as systems that use alternative infill products (the kind proposed by the district): https://dtsc.ca.gov/scp/priority-product-work-plan/
In November 2021, the city of Millbrae enacted a temporary ban on new artificial turf.
6 - HEAT EFFECT - GUIDELINES
Several research studies recorded significantly higher surface temperatures on turf fields on hot days. Climate change and the rise in temperatures will affect more and more the availability of the artificial turf at Cougar Field .
These are guidelines that are common in the industry. They apply to all artificial turf fields and require a heat warning sign posted at all artificial turf fields to inform community user groups:
• Anytime the outdoor temperature exceeds 80 degrees, coaches exercise caution in conducting activities on artificial turf fields.
• When outdoor temperatures exceed 90 degrees, coaches may hold one regular morning or evening practice (before 12 noon or after 5:00 pm).
• When the heat index is between 91-104 degrees between the hours of 12:00 noon and 5:00 p.m., school athletic activities are restricted on artificial turf fields to one hour, with water breaks every 20 minutes.
ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES
Safe Healthy Playing Fields Inc.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Toxics Use Reduction Institute