Boston Bans Astro Turf, Which Is Linked to Forever Chemicals
Boston has become the largest municipality in the U.S. to ban astro turf in city parks.
The reason? The artificial grass is made with the toxic forever chemicals known as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are linked to a host of negative health effects from cancer to immune suppression to reproductive problems.
“The city has a preference for grass playing surfaces wherever possible and will not be installing playing surfaces with PFAS chemicals moving forward,” the office of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement to The Guardian.
The ban was announced in an August 26 update on improvements to Malcolm X Park in the Roxbury neighborhood.
“Mayor Wu has directed that no new artificial turf fields will be installed in the City of Boston,” the update read, before explaining why this would require changes to the planned design of the park’s playing fields.
Astro turf fields are one of many products — from non-stick cookware to raincoats — that have been linked to PFAS, a class of chemicals that have been widely used since the 1940s, especially in stain-, grease-, or water-resistant items, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. When these products are made or used, the PFAS can enter the ground, air or water where they do not break down but instead remain. Because of their persistence, they have been found in the blood of humans and animals, food products, and even rainwater and the blood in umbilical cords.
In astro turf, PFAS are used to make the artificial grass blades flexible enough for extrusion, the process of shaping plastics by forcing them through a die, according to the Environmental Working Group. When Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Ecology Center tested eight different samples of turf in 2019, they all tested positive for fluorine, which is an indicator that PFAS are present.
Finding astro turf without the forever chemicals can be a challenge, as the city council of Portsmouth, New Hampshire learned the hard way when it contracted a company to install a PFAS-free field, according to E&E News. Testing on the turf by Non Toxic Portsmouth before it was even installed revealed fluorine, and further testing by the City Council found 135 parts per trillion of the forever chemical perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), which is now well above the safety-level for PFOS in drinking water recently established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
There are currently around 12,000 astro turf fields in the U.S., according to government estimates reported by The Guardian, but more and more municipalities are moving to ban or halt their installation, including several in Connecticut, two in California’s Bay Area and at least four others in Massachusetts.
“We already know there are toxic chemicals in the products, so why would we continue to utilize them and have children roll around on them when we have a safe alternative, which is natural grass?” Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai environmental health professor Sarah Evans asked, as reported by The Guardian.
For the people of Boston, the answer was clearly, “Why, indeed?”