NCHR Statement to the Maryland State House Environmental Committee, Artificial Turf

National Center for Health Research, March 1, 2019.


Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today in support of this legislation to restrict the disposal of synthetic turf and turf infill.

I’m Jack Mitchell, director of health policy for the National Center for Health Research. NCHR is a non-profit public health organization which analyzes medical and scientific information to better inform policymakers and the public. We also monitor health-related legislation and explain the implications for patients and consumers. We do not accept funding from any company that makes products we evaluate, so I have no conflicts of interest.

Our organization has been testifying and writing about the dangers of synthetic turf for several years, and we’ve testified before state and local legislative bodies and federal agencies. Our staff has reviewed all publicly available scientific studies pertaining to the health impact of the toxic chemicals which are used in the manufacture of synthetic turf. We’re very concerned about it, and that’s why I’m here today.

Plastic and synthetic rubber are made with different types of hormone-disrupting chemicals, some of which are known to be particularly harmful to growing children. Scientists at NIH have concluded that these chemicals can be threats to health even at low levels. And 20% of the 96 chemicals taken from samples at five different synthetic turf companies were classified as probable carcinogens, according to a 2015 study by Yale University.

Contrary to what is often stated by industry supporters and manufacturers, synthetic turf has not been declared safe by federal authorities. In fact, the EPA and the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission are jointly studying the chemicals used in these products and have not yet finished their analyses. Unfortunately, there are no federal requirements for safety testing of these synthetic turf products before they are sold.

Since independent scientists are convinced that synthetic turf in playgrounds and parks is less safe than grass, the bill before you is especially important. Dumping these used synthetic turf products in unregulated locations, or worse, incinerating them, increases the dangers to all of us, and especially those living near such locations. Requiring a “chain of custody” of those who seek to dispose of these products, as this legislation outlines, is an excellent, common sense public health proposal and should be adopted.

Use of synthetic turf has exploded in recent years, and industry has stated there may be as
many as 12,000 of these fields and parks throughout the country. They each account for
hundreds of tons of construction-like and demolition debris, synthetic rubber and plastic waste, containing an array of toxic chemicals. Additional toxic materials are added every year to these fields, as rain washes some of it into our streams and lawns. These toxic materials belong in controlled waste facilities, not in undisclosed, unregulated dump sites where they can contaminate our air, water and soil.

Please pass this legislation and thank you for addressing this critical public health issue.

Please contact Jack Mitchell, jm@center4research.org, with any questions.