Keeping Off the Grass-like Turf

Yes, I realize that my last posting was on a similar topic: Replacing the front lawn. So, I thought it most appropriate to follow up with a cautionary tale on the road to a suitable lawn alternative with this timely news flash:

Hazardous substance found in New Jersey!

Maybe not a shocker to all, but the hazardous substance was none other than lead and it was discovered at the Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken, N.J., in their seemingly green and friendly Astroturf. Yes, Astroturf is not natural and now it (at least in New Jersey) is teeming with nearly 10 times the amount of lead acceptable for human contact, according to New Jersey health officials.

In a Boston Globe posting, New Jersey officials closed two parks because the high levels of lead in the synthetic turf “raised fears athletes could swallow or inhale fibers or dust from the playing surface.” The story goes on to state that the United States has about “3,500 synthetic playing fields made of various materials, including nylon and polyethylene…” So, you don’t have to go all the way to New Jersey to get your daily dose of potentially lead-laden fibers.

I have always been a bit skeptical when it comes to the rough, verdant, synthetic glisten of artificial turf, and as much as I am in an active revolt against the front lawn (see previous posting), I can’t, in good conscience, recommend going synthetically green for this reason alone. So, my advice, keep off the grass, and hold your kid’s nose when they are within a breath of the Astroturf.

Lead Found in Artificial Turf in New Jersey []

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit, among other publications.


K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Kathleen M.
Kathleen M.8 years ago

Lead and other toxins are not the only problem. Plastic heats up to unsafe levels in the sun (just put a piece of green or other dark plastic in the sun and feel it then feel real grass). Check out for a compendium of information on synthetic turf. Most recently Artificial turf companies have settled with the state of California to get the lead out of FUTURE fields in a future year IN CALIFORNIA ONLY. That leaves children playing on the rest of the thousands of fields in the country unprotected against lead as well as other known toxins. There are NO federal regulations on plastic turf because the industry has mangaged to get itself exempted from being categorized as a "children's product" which means no testing for lead or other toxins.

For alternatives to turfgrass try native vegetation alternatives or organically maintained turfgrass.

Marykay L.
Marykay L9 years ago

Fake grass always gave me the creeps -- now I know why! Where is the US government regulation of this sort of toxic material in our environment? All the more reason to be vigilant as parents.