Letter to the Editor: Town Needs Backup Plan for Sabourin Field

Submitted by Terry Gleason

Our current artificial turf (AT) field was constructed 10 years ago with ground up, end-of-life tires. We were assured it was safe, but studies continue to this day to determine how toxic the hundreds of chemicals including known carcinogens, neurotoxicants, and endocrine disruptors (chemicals that may interfere with the body’s hormones and are associated with many health issues) may be in the recycled tires. 

A 2020 paper links a tire chemical to large kill-offs of salmon after heavy rains. After analyzing 2,000 chemicals in the storm water runoff polluting the river where the salmon spawned, they found that the chemical 6PPH found in the tire debris on the nearby highways and a source of the runoff, was killing the salmon.

Today, however, the PFAS toxins present in the top “green” layer is the new concern. The use of PFAS chemicals facilitates the manufacturing of the plastic grass blades. Are there now PFAS-free AT products out there? Hard to tell given that PFAS is actually a class of 15 thousand chemicals and AT manufacturers aren’t always forthcoming on the testing standards they use. Concerned parents in New Hampshire used independent laboratory testing and detected PFAS in artificial turf marketed as PFAS-free

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While researching one such “PFAS-free” installer myself, I found that their level of detection was 1 PPM (one part per million). Sounds quite good, right? But PFAS chemicals, because of their toxicity, are measured and regulated in parts per trillion (PPT). In other words, this “PFAS-free” installer claimed “no PFAS detected” by their lab tests, when, in fact, there could be more than 100 thousand PPT undetected in their product because of the inadequate and misleading lab test.

The Town needs a backup plan for Sabourin Field. Other local towns have voted a moratorium on new AT until we have evidence that they are safe. Yes, our school athletic programs are important for our young people, but all experts agree that it’s equally important to have time for unstructured physical activity. 

Do we want to spend more than $1M on a field where we need to post warnings about possible health risks? Do we want to make parents and kids have to choose between playing school sports vs. risking unknown impacts to their vulnerable developing bodies? If NFL players and elite soccer players are demanding natural grass fields for safety reasons, shouldn’t we do that for our kids?

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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