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Turf Wars: More Ugly Truth Coming Out About Artificial Turf

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I’d hate to be in charge of PR for the artificial turf industry right now. As an avid follower of all things turf, I’ve been watching closely as story after story was rolled out during the last few months about the problems caused by fake grass. For years I’ve advocated the use of real turfgrass over artificial turf. I first explored the debate back in 2012 and cited many of the arguments against its use. From sports injuries to the environmental harm it causes, it seemed obvious back then that real grass was the only way to go. But just in case you weren’t convinced, here’s a brief look at three recent articles that might change your mind.


Gender Discrimination

In August of this year, basketball star Kobe Bryant tweeted out a picture of the bruised and battered legs of women’s soccer player Sydney Leroux. The picture was meant to show the abuse that artificial turf inflicts on soccer players, and was part of a worldwide campaign to have the 2015 Women’s World Cup played on real grass. Fox Sports reports:


“As things stand, all six venues will have artificial turf. A coalition of some 50 leading women's soccer players from around the world -- including USA stars Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan -- has retained legal counsel and threatened action on the grounds of gender discrimination. They argue that a men's World Cup would never be played on anything but grass, and that it's unfair for them to have to do so.”


Fooled on Cost

Then in September, a story in Forbes pointed out a dirty little secret about artificial turf fields. Turns out that “taxpayers have been getting hoodwinked by bogus analysis into thinking artificial turf fields are cheaper than natural grass.” The report goes on to explain how non-partisan studies actually show that natural grass fields are far cheaper in the long run than artificial turf will ever be.


Cancer Causing?

But perhaps the most disturbing report on artificial turf fields is the latest story from NBC. Just last week, NBC reported on a possible link between artificial turf fields and cancer among the athletes that play on them. While they pointed out the link between the two has not been proven, the correlation is highly suspicious. Soccer players, goalkeepers in particular, seem to be getting cancer at an unusual rate. The suspect: artificial turf and the crumb rubber found within it. Crumb rubber is pretty much what it sounds like; small crumbs made from pulverized car tires meant to simulate the feel of natural grass. As goalkeepers slide and dive on the playing surface, they accumulate crumb rubber in their cuts, scrapes and mouths. Of course, more research and testing will be necessary before any conclusion can be made.


No matter how hard the artificial turf industry tries to copy the attributes of natural turfgrass, they will never be able to replicate the amazing groundcover Mother Nature has given us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; real beats fake any day.

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