Letter: A Call to Leadership. Say “No” to Artificial Turf!

Open letter to Greenwich BOE, Board of selectmen, BET, P&Z and RTM leadership submitted by Susan Rudolph, Sept 25, 2018 

Leadership requires bravery, especially if you know the decision may very well be
unpopular with some people. There is after all, a natural human instinct to want to go
along with the crowd or to be in accord with those having the loudest voices. But
officials willing to make tough decisions demonstrate incredible courage.

How is it possible a community that bans plastic bags and straws, and extols the virtue of organic lawn care is okay with having students, spectators and athletes of all ages rolling around on plastic fibers and infill that lack long-term testing? While some maintain there are safe organic infills, PBIs (Plant Based Infills) are not certified by the USDA or any third party as organic, and they are totally unregulated. The EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the CPSC (US Consumer Product Safety Commission) state they do not know enough about artificial turf fields and cannot claim they are safe.

How can it be acceptable for children to play on fields made of materials containing
chemicals, the names of which we can’t even pronounce? We should not forget that the entire carpet to which the plastic “grass” blades are attached is made of petrochemicals.

If it weren’t so serious it would be comical to remember that the first patented name before calling the product Astro-Turf was “ChemGrass”! Citizens empower their leaders to act on their behalf, to make informed, considered decisions, to weigh the long-term risks and put public safety above all other considerations.

True leaders having done their due diligence would understand injuries such as artificial turf induced skin burns may not look serious, but could develop into difficult to  control infections. They understand life-threatening health issues such as cancer or asthma may not show up for 10, 15 or 20 years and are willing to take a stand now in order to prevent that possibility.

How is it possible that our leaders are currently considering a decision that prioritizes hours of play on a sports field over the safety of children and thenegative impact on the environment? Leadership withers in the absence of courage. Leadership requires making bold decisions because you value and seek to protect the welfare of the community’s citizens rather than lauding the number of playable hours on a field.

Synthetic turf and its component parts contain toxic chemicals and metals such as lead and zinc that can contaminate soil and water. It’s hard to reconcile being good stewards of the environment while knowing at the end of an artificial field’s 8 to10 year life span, more than 40,000 pounds of plastic and greater than 400,000 pounds of infill (Turf Reclamation Solutions data) will go mostly to landfill.

More fields? Yes, definitely. The community would benefit from that. But choose fields comprised of natural grass that are designed for optimal drainage and maintained by trained professionals who are certified in field maintenance. Let’s use this opportunity for Greenwich to be a role model and to resist jumping on that feel-good, artificially-turfed band wagon.

I’m not a scientist, and heaven knows having a couple of graduate degrees hasn’t
prepared me, a parent, grandmother and citizen of Greenwich for this journey. In the
past months I’ve read more literature, talked to more professionals and scientists and
learned more than I ever expected to know about this subject. That is why I speak to
the topic with such passion and commitment.

Are you willing to risk the health and safety of our residents …especially our youngest ones? I, for one, am not.

For more information, please visit our web site: http://bit.ly/RealGrassinGreenwich, and if you agree, I invite you to sign the petition.

Susan Rudolph