Viewpoint - March 26, 2008

Letter: Conclusive testimony on artificial turf left out

In last week's otherwise fine article regarding Portola Valley's Town Council rejection of an expensive consultant study of artificial turf vs. natural grass, some of the most important facts were omitted.

Thoughtful and well-documented testimony presented at the council hearing brought out that recent, first-rate objective scientific studies show that the current generation of artificial turf poses an unacceptable risk to field-users and the environment due to off-gassing and leaching of carcinogens, toxins, allergens and heavy metals.

Given the current state of the relevant science and professional literature, no "expert" can currently demonstrate the safety of artificial turf; hiring a consultant would not change these facts. It would only waste the public's money and the precious time of our citizenry.

Public comments were an overall overwhelming 45 to 6 against our town pursuing further study of plastic playing fields. Artificial turf is just plain out of keeping with Portola Valley's values and the "green" ethos of our new Town Center.

Also, it was brought out at the hearing that there is a safe and sustainable natural alternative to the present field maintenance regimen which entails excessive water and chemical usage. A local landscape designer presented a powerful all-organic approach to field management that could result in deeper, healthier root growth, more resilient grass, reduced water consumption and zero pesticide and herbicide use and attendant runoff. This idea would give Portola Valley playing fields that are truly "green" in every way.

One day we will look back on the current generation of artificial turf the same way people now view lead paint, MTBE in gasoline and asbestos as a building material. Those who have avoided it will consider themselves fortunate.

Jon Silver

Portola Road, Portola Valley


Posted by a rational person, a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Mar 30, 2008 at 11:31 pm

I find it hard to believe that Stanford would have installed so many artificial turf fields on their campus if there were really any legitimate science behind the scare stories about artificial turf that are floating around out there. There are certainly valid reasons why one might prefer natural grass to artificial turf, but could we please look more critically at the anti-turf junk science that is being promoted by the sod industry before making community decisions about artificial turf?

Posted by Socrates, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 31, 2008 at 7:00 am

Rational, Have you reviewed the studies you call "junk science"? Can you state your arguments against specific points in the studies? Surely you're not suggesting that information from recent studies couldn't possibly justify new concerns, could you?

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