Norwalk moves ahead with artificial turf, despite some healthconcerns

NORWALK, Conn. – A watchful eye is being kept on possible health hazards in artificial turf, Common Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said Tuesday, acknowledging concern as Norwalk goes ahead with turfing the fields at Nathan Hale Middle School.

“I don’t believe there’s a problem with this,” Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) said at Tuesday’s Council meeting before announcing that a concerned citizen had asked questions about crumb rubber fields, a type of artificial turf.

The Council was considering a $15,000 amendment to a contract for athletic field design services at Nathan Hale. It was the only agenda item that did not sail through on what is known as the consent calendar; Petrini said Council members wanted to address the concern from the public.

A high school in Washington state recently cancelled the installation of crumb rubber turf because of an investigative report aired on NBC News in October. NBC reported that the granular synthetic turf between blades of artificial grass, made of shredded tires, contains four carcinogens. The International Agency for Cancer Research says that low levels of exposure to the chemicals is considered safe, NBC reported.

Leaders of the high school had not considered possible health risks before seeing the NBC report, according to NBC.

Kimmel was the only Council member to speak about the turf before the Council voted unanimously to approve the amendment. He said the safety of the turf had been discussed for several years.

Mayor Harry Rilling had provided Council members with a 2010 Connecticut Department of Public Health fact sheet and assessment of artificial turf fields, Kimmel said.

“Their conclusion is their assessment finds no health concerns from the chemicals in outdoor crumb rubber fields,” Kimmel said. “They talk a little bit about what time of year is healthiest and best to install them, and when it’s not such a good idea to install them, because they do respond to heat. Their conclusion is ‘still are some uncertainties about these crumb rubber fields.’ In Connecticut and other states they have not been able to pinpoint with any consistency health concerns.”

He said there may have been subsequent research and that he was aware that this information is based on a small number of studies.

“Our point is we are aware of the concerns about these artificial turf fields and as our fields come up for renewal we will continue to look into these issues because I have a feeling that in about 10 years they will probably be making them out of other types of materials which are longer lasting,” Kimmel said. “But we are aware of this possible problem and we will be working with the health department and Parks and Recs to make sure, as the fields come up for renewal at our different schools, we will be cognizant of potential problems.”

The fact that Norwalk’s fields are outside makes a difference, Kimmel said.

“When you do hear all of these concerns about crumb rubber fields, often they are based on the indoor fields and not the outdoor fields,” Kimmel said. “Anyway, for those in the community who are aware of this, we are aware of this also and we will do out due diligence going forward.”


One response to “Norwalk moves ahead with artificial turf, despite some healthconcerns”

  1. Mike Mushak

    As in any environmental issue like this, there are costs and benefits to be weighed in any decision. We have to consider all of the steep costs and potential hazards of dumping tons of chemicals (some carcinogenic and toxic) and millions of gallons of irrigation water on natural turf fields, including the cumulative effects of air and groundwater pollution, and the air pollution and fuel consumption from keeping them mowed and manicured every week. When all of that is figured into the equation including costs to taxpayers for all that maintenance, and the fact that the fields cant be used half the year to be reseeded or when they are are too muddy, then the very slight risk from rubber exposure on super hot days seems much less an issue. And these fields are outside with much better ventilation as Bruce Kimmel said.

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