Artificial Turf Fields
Newer artificial turf fields were developed to simulate natural grass fields by using infill material to make the fields softer and by adding plastic grass on the surface. Some fields use infill material made from ground-up tires, called "crumb rubber", and this type of infill has caused concern about potential chemical releases to the environment.
Why is artificial turf used?
Artificial turf fields have become a popular alternative to natural grass fields in many Connecticut towns. The advantages of these fields include less maintenance costs, ability to withstand intense use and no need for pesticides.
What is "crumb rubber"?
Tire crumb, a form of “ground or crumb rubber," is produced by processing used tires to a smaller and uniform size through shredding, grinding and sorting. Tire crumb is used in road construction, manufacturing of new molded rubber products (e.g. traffic cones, car bumpers, and garden hoses) and a number of athletic and recreational applications (e.g. sports fields and play surfaces), including use in artificial turf athletic fields as "infill" between turf fibers.
What chemicals are in crumb rubber?
The crumb rubber usually comes from recycled tires that contain man made compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Concerns have been raised about potential chemical exposures coming from the crumb rubber infill commonly used in these fields.
How can people be exposed to the chemicals in the crumb rubber?
To date, studies on the release of chemicals from crumb rubber have reported very low concentration of chemicals. Although exposure to these chemicals is expected to be low, the primary ways that people can potentially be exposed include:
Incidentally ingesting small amounts by putting fingers in the mouth or not washing hands before eating or after playing on the fields
Breathing in small particles of crumb rubber or vapors released from the fields
Direct skin contact
Have any studies shown health effects with exposure to crumb rubber chemicals?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that current information from a number of tire crumb studies does not show an elevated health risk from playing on fields with artificial turf or tire crumbs. These studies include a 2010 Connecticut Department of Public Health study that was published in 2011 (see below). There is still uncertainty, however, and additional investigation is warranted.
How can I reduce my exposure to chemicals in crumb rubber on Artificial Turf Fields?
- Wear shoes while playing on artificial turf fields
- Do not swallow any crumb rubber from the field and monitor young children to prevent swallowing of crumb rubber.
- Vapors from crumb rubber can build up to higher levels in the air when the field is indoors versus outdoors. Indoor fields should increase ventilation as much as possible (for example opening windows/door and using fans).
- Crumb rubber absorbs heat which can increase the surface temperature of an artificial turf field so players should take added precautions to avoid heat exhaustion (such as more frequent rest breaks and increased hydration).
- Wash hands after playing on an artificial turn field and especially before eating.
- Clean turf burns with soap and water
- Clean clothing and equipment used on artificial turf fields after use.
- Take off shoes before entering the house to avoid tracking in crumb rubber.
Does CT DPH support the use of Artificial Turf Fields?
What about per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in artificial turf?
The possibility that artificial turf fields may contain PFAS is an area of active research. Concerns were first raised in 2019 after a number of media outlets reported that testing by nonprofit organizations had identified low levels of PFAS in several artificial turf fields located in Massachusetts. However, because the PFAS concentrations detected in the Massachusetts fields are within the range of “background” PFAS concentrations detected in soils (collected from pristine remote areas) and in surface waters (collected near urban areas) as a result of atmospheric deposition, it is impossible to determine whether the PFAS originated from the turf or from other sources such as atmospheric deposition.
PFAS are used in the production of plastic, rubber, and resin, and as processing aids to improve plastic extrusion; many of the components used to manufacture artificial turf fields. Thus, additional investigation is required to determine if PFAS are present in artificial turf fields, and more importantly, if present, are PFAS released from the fields in sufficient quantities to pose a risk to public health or the environment?
To date, peer-reviewed scientific research published on this topic is limited to a single study (Lauria et. al. 2022). Results of this study, conducted by researchers from public health departments and universities in Sweden and Canada, indicate that the fluorinated substances (fluoropolymers) measured in the artificial turf fields appear to be bound to the components of the artificial turf and do not leach into the environment. Further, they are not the type of fluorinated chemicals that transform in the environment into harmful PFAS. For all these reasons, this peer-reviewed study shows that the presence of fluorinated substances in artificial turf fields does not pose an exposure concern to users of the fields.
However, PFAS in artificial turf is an evolving field of research. The CT DPH is actively following the science in this area and will continue to rely on peer-reviewed, published studies as the basis for its public health determinations and recommendations. The CT DPH will continue to make updates to this web page as needed, when new peer-reviewed research is published.
Where Can I Get More Information?
Information from State and Federal Governments:
Peer Reviewed Journal Publications
Simcox NJ, Bracker A, et al. Synthetic Turf Field Investigation in Connecticut. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues, 74:17, 1133-1149. 2011.
Ginsberg G, Toal B, et al. Human Health Risk Assessment of Synthetic Turf Fields Based Upon Investigation of Five Fields in Connecticut, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues, 74:17, 1150-1174. 2011.
Ginsberg G, Toal B, et al. Benzothiazole Toxicity Assessment in Support of Synthetic Turf Field Human Health Risk Assessment. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues, 74:17, 1175-1183. 2011.
Report and Fact Sheet
Risk Assessment of Artificial Turf Fields (Final Report) Four state agency reports from the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC), The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), the Departments of Public Health (DPH), and Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Final peer reviewed compilation report from the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE)
Environmental Protection Agency
Highsmith, R., K. W. Thomas, and R. W. Williams. A Scoping-Level Field Monitoring Study of Synthetic Turf Fields and Playgrounds. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-09/135, 2009.
New York City
New York State
Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Hefa Cheng, Yuanan Hu, and Martin Reinhard.. Environmental and Health Impacts of Artificial Turf: A Review. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 48, 2114-2129.
Sunduk Kim, Ji-Yeon Yang, Ho-Hyun, Kim, et al. Health Risk Assessment of Lead Ingestion Exposure by Particle Sizes in Crumb Rubber on Artificial Turf Considering Bioavailability. Environ Health Toxicol. 2012; 27: e2012005.
Lauria MZ, Naim A, Plassmann, et al. Widespread Occurrence of Non-Extractable Fluorine in Artificial Turfs from Stockholm, Sweden. Environmental Science & Technology Letters 2022. Aug 9;9(8):666-672.
Menichini E, Abate V, et al. Artificial-turf playing fields: contents of metals, PAHs, PCBs, PCDDs and PCDFs, inhalation exposure to PAHs and related preliminary risk assessment. Sci Total Environ. 2011 Nov 1;409 (23):4950-7.
Pavilonis BT, Weisel CP, et al. Bioaccessibility and Risk of Exposure to Metals and SVOCs in Artificial Turf Field Fill Materials and Fibers. Risk Anal. 2013 Jun 11.
Schiliro T, Traversi D, et al. Artificial Turf Football Fields: Environmental and Mutagenicity Assessment. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2013) 64:1–11.
van Rooij Joost and Jongeneelen Frans J. Hydroxypyrene in urine of football players after playing on artificial sports field with tire crumb infill. Int Arch Occup Environ Health (2010) 83:105–110.