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Organic vs. crumb-rubber infill

To the Editor:

When we announced our intent to install synthetic fields in our Rockwood stadiums, we predominately received supportive responses to the decision. Some who opposed the effort focused primarily on the alleged dangers relating to crumb-rubber infill products made from recycled tires. In an effort to acknowledge these concerns, we stated a commitment to consider alternatives to crumb-rubber and we stayed true to that commitment. We chose an organic, plant-derived, odor free and chemical free infill product that does not come with the high level of speculation otherwise associated with crumb-rubber.

The vast majority of information correlating synthetic turf with cancer refers to the utilization of crumb-rubber. Those specific concerns are negated by our choice to utilize an organic infill product.

A June 10 article  in West Newsmagazine (“Resident questions use of Corkonut infill in Rockwood’s artificial turf fields”) stated concerns about the presence of lead in some synthetic blades of grass. The EPA states the standard for lead in bare soil play areas for children is 400 ppm (parts per million). Soil with 150 ppm or less is considered lead-free. The CPSC says toys children play with can contain up to 100 ppm of lead content. Pharmaceutical products can contain lead up to 10 ppm. An independent analysis of our chosen turf product suggested a maximum lead content of 5 ppm.

This low number reflects the fact that lead is not utilized in the manufacturing of our chosen synthetic grass blades. Lead is airborne and inherent in nature and often exists to some degree in such analyses. It is likely that our natural grass fields contain a much higher concentration of lead than our chosen synthetic option. The EPA says, “Natural levels of lead in soil range between 50 parts per million (ppm) and 400 ppm.”

Even with this relevant information, we are having tests completed on the actual turf to be utilized in our stadium projects, prior to installation.

There are always dangers associated with athletic and activity practices on extremely hot days in the late summer months. Primarily, we believe this should be handled procedurally in a prudent manner by our coaches, athletic directors and principals. We already utilize safe guidelines for practices and we also believe the organic, plant derived, dirt-like infill will keep our synthetic fields much closer to the temperatures of natural turf. This product absorbs humidity from the air, which significantly reduces the surface heat. Regardless, we will stay committed to sound, healthy practices on hot summer days.

Cork is an organic, natural product. While some alternative infills use primarily cork, our chosen product only utilizes a small percentage along with other organic materials. We have not found or been provided anything specific to this product being dangerous in regards to potential inhalants not even from an independent firm that tested and analyzed our chosen organic infill product.

We maintain that we have made sound, researched decisions for our voter approved synthetic turf projects, and we believe we are in fact considering the best interests of our students.

Eric D. Knost

Superintendent

Rockwood School District

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