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January 18, 2009 / or4green

Update: Artificial Turf from Recycled Tires Releases Gases

According to the stats, one of the most frequently read posts on this blog is “Artificial Turf from Recycled Tires Releases Gases“. While it is not explicitly about OR, it is interesting because it involves trade-offs between two seemingly sustainable practices – recycling and health. Athletic fields are being constructed with artificial turf made from recycled tires. Back in August 2007 I wrote about a Connecticut-based study indicating that the crumbs from these fields can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) under certain conditions such as high heat and agitation. The key message seemed to be that more study was warranted. And now that is what is happening. The state is funding a $245,000 study to determine whether the fields pose safety risks for athletes and the environment. It will be conducted by the CT Agriculture Experiment Station (they did the original study), along with Univ. of CT Health Center, CT Dept. of Environmental Protection, and CT Dept. of Public Health. For more information, see the Jan 5, 2009 article “Artificial Turf Health Study Ready To Begin” in the Day. It mentions that fields with this turf are in place in over 80 municipalities in the state including at Connecticut College, the Coast Guard Academy, and Montville High School. The Day’s editors chimed in the next day in support of the study. Having played on one of these fields a little bit, the only thing I have noticed is that sometimes I find the crumbs in my shoes afterwards. Still, it is probably a case where the precautionary principle is called for. As mentioned in the earlier post, the cradle-to-cradle view, while in favor of sustainability, questions the use of materials (tire rubber in this case) in recycled products (artificial turf here) they were never intended to be in. Time will tell whether this will become another of their case studies or if the fields are determined to be safe.

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