"Park Turf Toxic?" MetroNY 07/10/06
Park Turf Toxic?
Study suggests “plastic grass” may be harmful to health.
Reprinted by Patrick Arden in Metro NY July 10, 2006
UPPER WEST SIDE- For two years Bill Crain has been fighting the use of synthetic turf in Riverside Park, joining a growing number of New Yorkers who fear the city is buying into an easy solution to its lack of funds for regular park maintenance.
Crain, a developmental psychologist at CUNY, had tried to make the case that children benefit from nature. Now he’s paid for a toxicology test that hints the so-called “plastic grass” may have even more serious health effects. “It suggests the rubber pellets are toxic,” he said.
In April, he inspected four acres near 107th Street that received the fake turf at a cost of $3.9 million. He discovered the green plastic strips were interspersed among loose rubber crumbs.
“You could pick them up with your hands,” he said. “One child said he found the crumbs in his shoes when he went home.”
Crain sent a sample of the rubber pellets for a chemical analysis at a Rutgers University laboratory.
A preliminary test last week concluded that concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at levels considered hazardous by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. “If they found those concentrations in soil, they’d say it was contaminated,” Crain said.
“PAHs, if you breathe them, have been associated with lung cancer,” noted Dr. Patrick L. Kinney, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, who hasn’t read the toxicology test. “ It’s worth knowing more. The compounds themselves are dangerous if they get in the body, but I don’t know if they can get in the body through the rubber.”
In a July 5 letter to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Crain outlined his concerns with a chart showing PAH levels.
“We cannot comment on the findings of this particular study as the study itself has not been shared with us,” said Parks Dept. spokesman Warner Johnston, who insisted the turf is safe.
Crain wonders why the Parks Dept. hasn’t asked to see the full report. Rather than belittle his findings, he said, “They should respond, “Thank you - we’ll do more study.” It’s preliminary, but it is definitely a red flag.”