The Park District of Oak Park will soon have 2-plus artificial turf fields, Ridgeland Common and plans are on the books for Stevenson Park (Lake Street at Humphrey). It also shared the cost of a third field, at Irving School. Oak Park High School has two artificial turf fields. Concordia and Dominican University in River Forest are also using artificial fields. And the River Forest Park District is in the preliminary stages of exploring artificial turf in their park that abuts Roosevelt Middle School. Cost per field has been quoted at $800,000.
In the last few months, the EPA has retracted its statement that these fields are safe. And earlier this month NBC News covered a University of Washington story about an associate head soccer coach's concerns over her women goalies developing Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She found that her university athletes were not the only ones developing cancer.
The Environmental and Human Health INC. and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) have stated repeatedly that long term studies are needed to determine the safety of the recycled tire crumbs that are the fill in artificial turf. However, Dr. Joel Forman, a pediatrician and environmental health expert at Mount Sinai's School of Medicine advocates "Sometimes you can't wait for more study and have to make choices that are precautionary." But the question of precaution with artificial fields seems to be pushed to the sidelines.
Yet there are alternatives:
"Fill only" alternatives to the toxic tire crumbs include:
Organic infill choices such as: cork, coconut, nut shells and sand ballast
Recycled gym shoes (Nike Grind), chosen by a Washington state high school following the recent NBC news report at an additional cost of approximately $20,000.
Organic turf option:
Organic lawn care experts such as Chip Osborne (osborneorganics.com) state that if a field is focused on an organic system it will stand up to heavy use. According to Chuck Sherwood, field maintenance for Branford Parks and Recreation Department, Branford, CT., "Organic turf management results in healthier soils which produce thicker turf, disease resistance, less soil compaction and a softer playing field. The result – a much healthier root system that can sustain repeated use."
According to the recent NBC News report, both the New York City parks department and the Los Angeles school system no longer install artificial turf. In a village that prides itself on sustainability principles, shouldn't our children's health be our greatest concern?
If you too are concerned about this issue, please attend the next park district meeting:
Park District board meeting
Thursday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Oak Park Conservatory
Answer Book 2019
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