Artificial turf at SLHS would be a mistake

To the editor:

Artificial turf is made of nylon, polypropylene and/or polyethylene. Chemicals used include, lead, styrene, phthalates, benzene, arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, cadmium, benzathiazole, hexane, toluene, formaldehyde, latex and PFAS, a class of about 15,000 chemicals often used to make products water-, stain- and fire-resistant. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, liver and kidney diseases, thyroid issues, birth defects, decreased immunity and other serious health problems. Synthetic turf is flammable unless treated with flame-retardants, which adds to the chemical hazard. Public health advocates say that all artificial turf is made with dangerous levels of PFAS that can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled or ingested.

Our field is 120 yards long by 65 yards wide, over 70,000 square feet. The turf alone weighs between 0.75 pounds/square foot and 1.25 pounds/ square foot, so we’d be bringing around 70,000 pounds of plastic to the school grounds to out-gas and shed microplastics for 15 years, after which it would get hauled off to rot in a dump somewhere, continuing to shed microplastics into the environment. And it has to be replaced every 15 or so years at a current cost of $750,000.

Synthetic turf can also harbor dust, pet waste and harmful bacteria that would normally be broken down by soil microbes. Instead, such bacteria will sit and accumulate on the surface, being carried off the field on children’s feet. People get more MRSA (Staphylococcus aureus) infections from playing on synthetic turf fields than on conventional grass.

Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals because of their rapidly developing organ systems, and are likely to have greater hand-to-mouth exposure to environmental contaminants.

PFAS is a persistent chemical: It accumulates in the environment. PFAS and microplastics create problems for wastewater treatment plants, pollutants that are almost impossible to remove from the environment once they’re out there. Runoff from our field drains into the high school pond and then to Lower Saranac Lake. New York state will ban the sale of turf containing PFAS starting at the end of 2026.

The U.S. chemical industry spent over $110 million to kill dozens of pieces of PFAS legislation and to slow administrative regulation around “forever chemicals.” Their efforts were effective: only eight pieces of legislation targeting PFAS got through Congress.

Manufacturers claim there’s no reliable evidence showing that PFAS is dangerous, but there is no reliable evidence showing that PFAS in turf is not dangerous.

“In 2024, the last thing we should be doing is putting down acres of a plastic fossil fuel product … with chemicals that are going to get all over athletes’ skin, and into soil and water,” Kyla Bennett, a scientist with the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said. “It just boggles my mind that people are still considering using this stuff.”

We could spend the money on the lights and bleachers without the turf. Tupper Lake got their lights 24 years ago. We could also spend it adding solar panels to the schools, which would generate income/savings that then could be spent on programs, or on taxpayer savings.

Marc Wanner

Saranac Lake












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