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NY Assemblymember Englebright's Bill Would Require Study Health Impacts of Artificial Turf

Would Prevent Installation of Articficial Turf Until Study is Complete

New Legislation Would Prevent Installation of Artificial Turf
Until Study Is Completed

Assemblymember Steven Englebright (D- Setauket) today announced his introduction of a new bill (Assembly 9503 that would prevent further installation of synthetic or artificial turf until the NYS Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation complete a study of the potential adverse environmental and public health impacts of this material. The bill would also require that any installation of artificial turf trigger a site-specific environmental assessment under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. Assemblymember William Colton (47th Assembly District) and Assemblymember David Koon (135th Assembly District) have joined Assemblymember Englebright as co-prime sponsors of this bill.

Assemblymember Englebright stated, “Before we take risks with our children’s health and drinking water quality, we need to make sure that the uncertainties that may be associated with the many artificial turf playing fields and playgrounds that are being installed are fully investigated. Synthetic turf has been found to contain numerous hazardous contaminants, including lead, arsenic, cadmium and chromium, and may not be an appropriate replacement for natural and other materials in all settings.” Assemblymember Englebright chairs the Assembly Tourism, Arts and Sports Development Committee and has long advocated for protection of the environmental health and safety of children in schools and other settings.

Assemblymember Colton cautioned, “The fill in synthetic turf is crumb rubber, a product derived from ground-up waste tires. As a result of the State’s actions to reduce the significant number of waste tires stockpiled throughout New York, the use of crumb rubber has rapidly increased, particularly for athletic surfaces. We must be sure that this is an appropriate use of this material.” Assemblymember Colton chairs the Assembly Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management and originally authored the State’s Waste Tire Management Act that was enacted into law in 2004.

Assemblymember Koon said, “Before localities commit major resources for installing synthetic turf, we must ensure that this material is not creating health and safety problems for our children and our environment. I want to protect the people of my district from unnecessary toxic exposures.” Assemblymember Koon chairs the Assembly Legislative Commission on Toxic Substances and Hazardous Waste and authored a law that regulates the use of pressure treated lumber in public playgrounds.

The use of crumb rubber has dramatically increased with the focus on finding markets for

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scrap tires generated annually in New York and waste tire dump remediation projects. This
material can be used for synthetic turf, rubberized asphalt for road surfaces, mulch and other products. The concerns arising from the use of this material include health impacts such as inhalation and dermal exposure and off-gassing into structures, as well as groundwater and soil contamination.

Assemblymember Englebright explained, “We are placing this limited (6 month) moratorium on the installation of synthetic turf until the Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation can examine the potential adverse effect associated with certain uses and venues. It is prudent to take a step back before we leap into a situation where the health, environmental and economic consequences become overwhelming.”

Assemblymembers Colton and Koon cautioned, “Local governments across the state are
buying and installing synthetic turf, despite warnings about the potential hazards of this material. We note that the Material Safety Data Sheet for crumb rubber recommends the use of personal protective equipment for workers, yet our children are offered no such protections when they play and compete on these surfaces!”

Dr. Kathleen Burns of Sciencecorps stated, “Good public health practice requires protection of communities, and especially children, from unnecessary harm. For the sake of all concerned, the state should move quickly so that parents, communities and schools districts can obtain the information they need to make informed decisions. I support the introduction of legislation that requires a full evaluation of public health and environmental impacts as a necessary and positive step.” Dr. Burns has worked extensively on synthetic turf issues.

Judy Braiman, representing Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides (RAMP) said, “It is important to study the health effects on humans and the environment before allowing artificial turf to be installed anywhere. RAMP has been conducting tests of artificial turf samples and has identified hazardous constituents of concern.” A link to the RAMP report is provided at the end of this press release.

Joel R. Kupferman, Executive Director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, stated, “The components of artificial turf contain many chemicals, some of which are toxic and others which are known carcinogens. Without adequately assessing the potential environmental health hazards presented by the use of an artificial turf product (and its breakdown over time), state and local agencies cannot fulfill the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). I applaud the inclusion of artificial turf installation as an action requiring a SEQRA review.

Steven Boese, NYS Director for Healthy Schools Network noted, “Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards. This bill is an important step toward protecting children’s health and safety in New York. In our well-intentioned effort to use recycled materials, we must ensure that these products are safe, especially for children. The Network applauds the leadership of longtime children’s environmental health advocate Steven Englebright for introducing the bill, along with Assemblymembers Colton and Koon, and will work with them to successfully enact this bill into law.”

Kathleen Curtis, Policy Director for Clean New York, added, “Children are already exposed to a multitude of chemicals through toys, food containers, electronics, textiles, building materials, and dozens of other everyday products. The last thing they need is routine exposure to yet another toxic threat such as artificial turf. This policy initiative is just good common sense.”

Note: The following website for the Institute of Health and the Environment at SUNY Albany contains a report from RAMP that summarizes recent findings and provides links to other information on synthetic turf.

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