Hefa Cheng, Yuanan Hu, and Martin Reinhard (2014). “Environmental and Health Impacts of Artificial Turf: A Review.” Environmental Science & Technology 2014 48 (4), 2114-2129. DOI: 10.1021/es4044193.
With significant water savings and low maintenance requirements, artificial turf is increasingly promoted as a replacement for natural grass on athletic fields and lawns. However, there remains the question of whether it is an environmentally friendly alternative to natural grass. The major concerns stem from the infill material that is typically derived from scrap tires. Tire rubber crumb contains a range of organic contaminants and heavy metals that can volatilize into the air and/or leach into the percolating rainwater, thereby posing a potential risk to the environment and human health. A limited number of studies have shown that the concentrations of volatile and semivolatile organic compounds in the air above artificial turf fields were typically not higher than the local background, while the concentrations of heavy metals and organic contaminants in the field drainages were generally below the respective regulatory limits. Health risk assessment studies suggested that users of artificial turf fields, even professional athletes, were not exposed to elevated risks. Preliminary life cycle assessment suggested that the environmental impacts of artificial turf fields were lower than equivalent grass fields. Areas that need further research to better understand and mitigate the potential negative environmental impacts of artificial turf are identified.