Synthetic turf fields have been popping up across Nassau County, with the promise of longer playing time, decreased injury and fair competition. But the field’s underbelly, specifically its infill made of recycled tires, has local advocates asking for additional studies.
“I learned that more and more facilities are using turf fields,” Congressman Steve Israel said. He recently called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an updated, detailed study into crumb rubber infill. “I saw reports that the EPA hadn’t adequately researched [field turf] safety.”
Most studies are dated, with the latest chronicle being in 2009 by the EPA. The recycled tire infill posed no threat, the study says, but the EPA admitted that, “it is not possible to reach any more comprehensive conclusions without the consideration of additional data.”
Carle Place High School installed two new turf fields in October 2014. Superintendent of Schools Dave Flatley says the district chose to install turf because there were not many places for kids to play.
“The grass never got a chance to recover from one season to the next. As a result, kids were playing on surfaces less than optimal,” Flatley said. “From the playability point of view, it made sense to put in turf fields. Independent of weather, it’s going to be accessible for all kids, not just high school athletes, but the neighborhood kids as well.”
The baseball field and football field, which was converted to a multipurpose field and is now used by the football, soccer, girls’ lacrosse and field hockey teams, were all redone.
The $2.4 million project was approved by the community back in May 2014, and paid for (with voter approval) out of the district’s capital reserve fund. However, parents and community members did have some concerns about the safety of the fields-as did the school administration.
“The board of education had the safety issue right up front throughout the whole process,” said Flatley. “We asked our architects and engineers to look at that before we put the fields in, and we did our own homework too.”
Flatley said the state health department’s reports indicated concerns about crumb rubber were unfounded, and that even if someone was to ingest it by accident, it would pass right through them. Because turf fields can sometimes be harder than regular grass, the district also installed extra pads as a precaution to make them a little softer.
“The turf we installed is the safest one available and the most modern one as of last year,” said Flatley. “We’re going to monitor it closely. Some parents expressed concerns and that’s legitimate, they had some of the same concerns we did. But I think the overwhelming majority of those concerns were answered. And kids who have experienced [the fields] seem to really enjoy it.”