Turf Wars, continued

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Turf Wars, continued

As a response to recent discussions here about the pros and cons regarding installation of a synthetic surface on Carl A. Hansen Memorial Field, I was presented with some literature on the subject to take home and study.

The eight-pager, entitled "Overview of the Lat­est Attacks Against Artificial Turf," was one of the most handsomely produced brochures I've seen in ages.

(With 38+ years in graphic arts, I have an idea of what went into the production... spot-lacquered photos, full-color print­ing, etc.... and it wasn't cheap!)

I read it with interest, as it directly addressed some issues raised in Mrs. Speir's "guest blog" against artificial turf, strenuously downplaying the risks of "Silicosis," "Heat," "Staph" and "MRSA," and "Rubber Crumbs,"

(For good measure, the brochure also dis­missed... wait for it... "Global Warming,")

The most telling part of the entire presentation was that not only wasn't there a single foot­note or reference to a study included, there wasn't a single line identifying the source of the literature... not even a copyright notice to suggest who might have paid for it!

Without cites of authority, any claims are not simply suspect, they are meaningless!

It wasn't too difficult to unearth the source of the brochure: FieldTurf, a subsidiary of French-owned Tarkett, which just may be the "Big Pharm" of synthetic playing surfaces!)

(Review "Overview of the Latest Attacks Against Arti­ficial Turf" and decide for yourself if it passes the "Smell Test.")

There is some unintentional hilarity in that literature when one comes to language such as "lobbyists and PR groups [for] the natural grass industry" as being the source of alarms about the health risks of synthetic surfaces.


Anyone who cites this brochure as any part of a brief for converting Hansen Field... or any other, for that matter... shouldn't just be laughed out of the meeting, they should be arrested for fraud.

After writing the foregoing, I passed the literature to my wife for her assessment and her first response was:

"This thing was written for football players who've had too many hits to the helmet!"

She also noted the utter lack of citations for any of the claims and, tellingly, that if one were to take any of it to heart, then this part:

"Football injuries associated with the brain occur at the rate of one in every 5.5 games. In any given season, 10% of all college players and 20% of all high school players sustain brain injuries." (p4)

...suggest that football be dropped from the school's sports curriculum.

But that's not likely to happen!

There may be a legitimate brief to be made for an artificial surface... but not on a health basis.

Additionally, Mrs. Speir cites a study entitled "Incidence, causes, and severity of high school football injuries on FieldTurf versus natural grass: a 5-year prospective study."

It's science, not FieldTurf puffery.


1. Hambone said...

As an athelete who has played on grass, old artificial turf and the rubber crumble turf, I can attest that the new stuff is really worth looking into. I don't say this from a monetary standpoint... the numbers in NYC are close to the same. Grass is natural but requires work and too much use (football, lacrosse, et al) will cause it to wear. The old artificial turfs were truly godawful: carpet burns, turf toe, 120° heat. The new turfs are different. First, forget the lead argument... that was old technology using crumbled tires. The new stuff (see NYC Riverside parks and Randall's Island) is better. It drains quickly, no burns and it doesn't have the heat effect of carpet. A downside remains that for soccer it plays like a pool table. On punts there is a reverse English. It is pliable enough to use cleats and firm enough so that sneakers don't slip. Personally I don't care for the spin on a ball but if I have to provide a surface that will take lacrosse, football and soccer, and I'm paying for it, the new stuff is the ONLY way to go.

So you dismiss the rest of the science and go the "because I said so" route of the FieldTurf brochure?

Okay, just as long as we understand what's at work here.
– Dean

2. Jeanne Speir said...

That was a reasonable and measured response from an adult athlete who admitted he had no idea regarding the start-up cost of the turf ($1 million, we are told); but rather addressed the ongoing turf utilization by more than one sport. He also mentioned how it changed the ball spin, how the newer artificial surfaces feel, etc. Fair enough.

He dismisses the lead issue, but neglected to address the other problems with crumbled recycled tires and the plastic turf -- I refer him to a website discussing the very troublesome contamination problems with Bisphenol A, a plastic product. I respectfully submit this for his and Blog readers' review.

The point he is missing is that this field is primarily for children's use. Their bodies are affected much more by the toxic exposure to outgassing and byproducts of these plastic and rubber compounds than adults. If we wish to keep our children healthy, why risk this exposure?

I concede that grass does get beat up the more it is played upon. I get that. So can someone tell me what is happening with the Hite Field? I see it was raised. Is it servicable again?

My only request of the football adults is that they share their field when the soccer teams move up in their leagues, as the football facilities are far more amenable to comfort and crowds.

Further, field usage for practices should be rotated through the Hite Property for all the turf sports, football included. The PAL Football Moms clearly have been unaware of the research on this topic. I hope this helps.

3. Hambone said...

I'll try and say it graciously but I think someone is playing to your fear. The lead issue was when they used shredded tires and yes it is true at one point NYC parks used this (almost all are phased out).

It is also true you'd see tire hunks, belting etc. Yes it was like playing on a landfill. But they don't do that anymore. So the lead argument is out. I do not posit myself as a scientist only as a person who has playing experience on all surfaces. That tactile moment qualifies me more than someone who is only reading a brochure.

As for the Bisphenol is certainly the vogue thing. Bisphenol is related to plastics not rubber. NYC fields do not have a Bisphenol discharge. Or should I say the new ones. The older ones do (Thomas Jefferson is the one people like to refer to, but again that is an old technology field). I think there may be more coming out about bisphenols but you are more likely to suffer its consequences via water bottles, plastic baby bottles, etc., than a couple of hours per week on a field. I know that only mitigates the issue, but it remains true.

Overall, I am not for spending $1M on anything right now. Westhampton Beach looks like crap with no less than four (4) abandoned gas stations (one on County Road 31 and Montauk Highway, two by the bowling alley and one at the end of Main Street), Dora's, the National Store, et al vacant. 'Tis a shame the civic leaders don't address this.

Thank you for your tenor, sir.

In respect to the "lead issue," I defer to Mrs. Speir who is the scientist in the family, and was the more recent parent with an offspring on the local athletic fields.

You are correct about the greater bisphenol concerns being related to "baby bottles," but that does not take them out of the artificial sports surfaces equation.

As for your comments about the degraded aesthetics of the Village, I'm not certain who you mean by "civic leaders," but the locations you cited are all in the private sector and should not be proactively addressed by Municipal Government.

One of the sites you cited, the "abandoned gas station ... at the end of Main Street," was subject to a pre-emptive action by members of the Wilenski administration which installed a stockade fence around it to mitigate the "eyesore factor." The EPA/DEC problems have all been resolved now, but owner Barry Bernstein has yet to perfect his July 2008 Planning Board decision with the necessary covenants.

And, in fairness, I think you have to take cognizance of the economy's effect on development... there's been a major application in the works for several years now involving the one razed filling station and bowling alley, and that may be on hold at this point,
– Dean

4. Hambone said...

Very true, it is in private hands. Given the state of the economy and the downturn in Westhampton Beach, a proactive approach should be taken by Westhampton Beach, the current owner/developers, and prospective developers to change the current status of Westhampton Beach. It's going south, very quickly.

The economy is in the toilet everywhere, not just Westhampton Beach.

5. Jeanne Speir said...

Dear Athlete Hambone, a request. After you get off the turf, please read the grey colored link connection above. Scroll down to the abstracts. It's a quick read from many strong sources of ongoing studies and findings. No YouTube here.

There's also lead in the fake grass coloring, and a host of other toxic chemicals in the plastics, the foam and rubber cushioning. Here's the problem: toxic substances are cumulative; and they "cumulate" quicker in kids.

This isn't fear; this is a potential unnecessary health hazard. Educated and informed decision-making is a parental responsibility. I submit it for review.

FYI: Bisphenol A plastic is in artificial turfs, and while it may be vogue to you because of the media; it has been receiving serious attention for quite some time. It is sprayed inside virtually every can of food or beverage produced in the USA. Therefore, it is likely to have a strong sales and lobbyist representation, and I'm sure they would prefer we forget this issue. It is strongly linked to obesity and diabetes, perhaps bladder cancers and a host of other effects.

For the record: my Masters is in Science, Hambone.

BTW, I agree with your economic assessment. And any "slush fund" that is identified within the school district best be earmarked for direct educational support as the economy wobbles. It is a school first, and the athletic department has had some mighty fine upgrades over the last few years.


6. MeForTurf said...

Can we all agree that something needs to be done as our field situation has become an embarrassment while every other school system in the area has better?

Dunno... what's your solution?

7. MeForTurf said...

One more thought: I hope this doesn't go the way of the lights and we put it off only to have to do it down the road at a higher cost. Seems like we have done that enough in the past, auditorium as well, to learn from previous mistakes. Thought on this?

I'm an open book... read OtBB for a while, and any mystery is over.
– Dean

8. Jeanne Speir said...

Have you read nothing? "Every other school system in the area has better?" That is debatable.

I assume you are alluding to the local schools.

Tell me how well Southampton, Hampton Bays, Mastic and East Hampton High schools stack up academically to Westhampton Beach.

I honestly believe in this horrific economy, every penny should go to keep guys like Grodski merit payed and in our kid's classrooms!

This is NOT the time to pimp our fields with toxic waste.

Some of us believe every little town out here does NOT require its own auditorium, its own McLibrary; that the time has come to trim the waste, share facilities and try to save as much money as we can.

If you find the fields so despicable, move dude. I surmise your issue doesn't qualify for AP classes, anyway.

You'll be happier with a fake plastic field, and we needn't replace the darn thing in ten years for another million; not to mention expose our kids to more toxic junk.

9. MeForTurf said...

So while America gets fatter and more out of shape, we short short change our children when it comes to atheltics? Why wouldn't we finish the school and be the best in all areas or are you another one of the elitists who think fat children are not an issue? I agree our academics are excellent but I also believe our youth of today need to get out and excercise and this is a means to an end. When you mention to toxic what exactly are you referring to because the New York State Department of Health has concluded these new field turf products are safe.

Elitist?!? That's not a very wise thing to suggest to Mrs. Speir.

But I'll let her address that when she returns from her fact-finding flight to the Pac-NW.

10. Jeanne Speir said...

Children are fat for many reasons.

There is a stronger link with childhood diabetes, learning disabilities, morbid obesity and hormone disorders from the cumulative amounts of toxic exposure to plastics, lead, BPA (bisphenol A,) arsensic, mercury and other toxins that leach from sources such as these artificial fields and enter our children's younger, smaller bodies by the skin, respiratory and oral route. I have more resources if you really care for these kids. It appears you are more concerned with what other people think of your school's football field. Clearly you need to take the initiative to read the many links handed to you within this blog, for you continue to demonstrate an ignorance of the escalating realization of problems with these fields, "MeforTurf."

Do your homework! If we want our kids skinnier we've an entire plastics industry that is changing its products today as evidence mounts againsts them. You seem blind to it. It is becoming alarmingly clear one that of the reasons kids are getting fat, I mean really fat, is their overwhelming cumulative exposure to not-so-"benign" plastics that did not exist when we were kids.

There are other reasons the kids are getting chubby, but here we have an easy solution that avoids exposing them to yet another source of harm. Are you more interested in keeping up with "appearances" than making an informed parental decision? We Are Responsible for our kids. Watch an HD TV professional football game, and look carefully in the right exposure for the powdery "poof" eminating from the field with the tackle impact of bodies on artificial turf. Think of your kid taking a deep breath of that junk.

If parents really want to limit toxic exposure, this is a no-brainer. Stick to the real thing, grass, and help the turf salesman to another profession, like training our kids instead of shilling for French plastic companies.

Have the last word if you want to. I have given you ample reasons to reconsider what you are doing.

PS: I suppose you missed the latest arson activity du jour -- of setting artificial fields on fire. Apparently it's easy -- Follow the link, MFT! All it takes is one crummy sociopath with a grudge, opportunity, and a BIC lighter. Then great, we ALL get a good whiff downwind of burning tires and plastics and foams. Have you asked the fire department to check the MSDS and likely Hazmat management of these field materials? This conversation is silly. Get some real field grass expertise, and stop with an ostensibly quick-fix disastrous decision. The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Grass... think a little greener, would you?

11. EastEnd68 said...

Very interesting story on News12 tonight about a new artifical{sic} surface-better than rubber.

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