Synthetic turf refers to the artificial ground cover replicating the natural grass in both function and appearance. Synthetic turf is often used to cover athletic fields to provide an all-weather, consistent, year-round playing field that can withstand many weather conditions and thus eliminating the down town for recovery. Synthetic turf provides landscape cover which is weed-free and requires low maintenance. Unlike the natural grass cover, synthetic turf does not require the application of fertilizers or water. It also comes in different styles and forms that resemble the prevalent natural grass. Additionally, synthetic turf is stabilized by ultraviolet (U.V) rays which provide colorfastness and thus protecting it against fading. However, some scholars argue that U.V rays can alter the life of the synthetic turf in that its lifespan can be shortened by high intensity of sunlight. In order to maximize the life and playability of the synthetic turf, there is need for maintenance of the product. The maintenance of the synthetic turf requires much less time and money compared to the maintenance of natural glass. Synthetic turf has gained widespread popularity as an alternative to the natural grass for athletic sports fields. This research paper seeks to examine the biggest manufacturers of synthetic turf, the different types of synthetic turf, and the health impacts of synthetic turf fields.
The Biggest Manufacturers of Synthetic Turf
Synthetic turf has gained widespread popularity for both residential lawns and sport fields. As a result, there are various major manufacturers of synthetic turf. The GreenFields is among the major manufacturers of this product and its headquarters are situated in Genemuiden in the Netherlands. This company has other facilities located in various countries including North America, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Korean, and South Africa. Another synthetic manufacturing company is called CCgrass. This company operates in over 72 countries across the globe and it owns the largest synthetic grass factory in the world. Additionally, Tiger Turf Americas in among the most innovative artificial glass manufacturing organizations in the globe with its headquarters situated in New Zealand. The company has customers from across the world.
In addition, Glass Tex is a company specializing in the manufacture synthetic turf or artificial glass for commercial and residential applications. It is the pioneer of durable and safe turf technology and it produces more natural, stronger and safe synthetic turf. Garden Grass, another synthetic turf manufacturing company, has developed various products for mini sports, playgrounds, leisure, and landscape. The composition and design of the company’s products was derived from its collaboration with GreenFiled Company. On the other hand, Global Syn-Turf is an artificial turf manufacturing company with its headquarters at Hayward California. The company sells its products to various countries in Asia and Europe. Its lead-free products are ideal for commercial and residential landscapes, sports and pets field. Lastly, EnvyLawn is another synthetic turf manufacturing company provides turf products for commercial and residential clientele.
The Different Types of Synthetic Turf Fields
There are various types of synthetic turf fields. In this regard, the turf fields depend on the type of infill material used in their design. The various types of infill materials available include crumb rubber, coated rubber infill, Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) infill, organic infill, silica (sand) infill, coated silica infill, and TPE (thermo plastic elastomer) infill. Crump infill is obtained from scrap truck and car tires. These tires are recycled to make the infill material for synthetic turf. On the other hand, both cryogenic and ambient rubber can easily be coated with anti-microbial substances, sealers, or colorants to make coated rubber infill. Coating of rubber increases the infill’s aesthetic appeal, reduces dust during the process of manufacturing the infill, and completely encapsulates the rubber material.
EPDM infill refers to a polymer elastomer which is highly resistant to wear and abrasion and it is not affected by extreme temperatures. As such, this is a durable infill material in all climatic conditions. It is resistant to chemical and atmospheric agents and it has excellent elasticity characteristics. Organic infill is made from organic components including ground fibers and natural cork. Organic infill is suitable for landscaping and professional sports applications. Silica (sand) infill is made sand. Sand is beneficial as an infill material in that it is natural, fracture resistant, and non-toxic. Coated sand infill consists of high-purity silica which is coated with rigid or soft coating. The coating provides the synthetic turf with durability and superior performance by forming a strong bond with the silica grain which protects silica from bacteria. Finally, TPE infill is a heavy metal free, non-toxic infill that durable and resistant to fading. It can be recycled and reused.
The Health Impacts of Synthetic Turf Fields
With Significant low maintenance needs and water savings, synthetic turf has become the most popular alternative to the use of natural grass on both lawns and athletic fields. However, critics argue that synthetic turf poses various health concerns to human beings and animals. Particularly, the infill material used in the manufacture of synthetic turf poses various health concerns because it is composed of scrap tires. The infill tire material consists of various heavy metals and organic contaminants that can readily leach into ground water sources and/or volatilize into the atmosphere, thus posing risks to human health and the environment. Studies have employed health impact assessment technique on synthetic turf to determine its potential health impacts to human beings. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes health impact assessment as an objective and systematic process which examines how the proposed initiatives, programs, or policies affect different social and environmental determinants of heath.
Synthetic turf is composed of various materials that retain heat. These heat-retaining materials can increase the temperatures of the field surface and significantly increase the fields’ air temperatures. Consequently, this can increase the temperatures in the surroundings and thus contributing to elevated health risk, especially during hot weather conditions. Additionally, increased air and surface temperatures as a result of synthetic turf products could elevate the possibility of developing heat-related injuries and illnesses, especially among children due to their high sensitivity to extreme heat conditions. In this regard, young athletes and children are susceptible to various heat-related illnesses including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration when exercising in extreme hot weather conditions.
Moreover, the conventional synthetic turf products consisting of drainage pipe systems create water run-off which in turn increase the risk of flooding and pose water quality concerns. Furthermore, hazardous materials originating from the infill rubber material can readily volatize or leach into ground or surface water. However, the harmful substances released through this process have negligible impact on human health. Nevertheless, these releases could have potential negative effects on the aquatic ecosystems’ health. Similarly, unlike natural grass, synthetic turf fields do not offer biodiversity or ecological benefits. This can have negative impact on vegetation including nearby trees and hence reducing the ground’s capacity absorb snow melt or rainfall. This will in turn increase the risk of flooding. In addition, unlike natural grass which reduces the amount carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, synthetic turf increases the carbon footprint in the atmosphere. The synthetic turf’s carbon footprint depends on the type of material used in the manufacture of the product.
According to the report published in the Huffington.com, the health concerns posed by synthetic turf on children has made a group of parents in Medway to push for the installation of warning signs near synthetic turf fields. These warning signs are meant to alert people of the potential negative health effects of synthetic turf. Notably, the major health concerns among various stakeholders have been focused on the potential health risks of crump rubber. In this case, it has been argued that crump rubber pellets used in the design of synthetic turf contains tire bits that may contain various carcinogens including but not limited to benzene, and arsenic. Moreover, some critics of synthetic turf have also argued that the crump rubber consists of lead which has negative health impacts on human beings. On the contrary, synthetic turf proponents argue that a number of studies conducted on the safety of synthetic turf fields have indicated that such fields are safe.
This research paper examined the biggest manufacturers of synthetic turf, the different types of synthetic turf, and the health impacts of synthetic turf fields. It was established that there are several major synthetic turf manufacturing companies with their branches in various countries across the world. These companies include The GreenFields, Genemuiden, CCgrass, Gress Tex, Garden Grass, Global Syn-Turf, and EnvyLawn. On the other hand, the type of turf fields depends on the type of infill material used. The most popular infill materials include coated rubber infill, crumb rubber, organic infill, Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) infill, silica (sand) infill, TPE (thermo plastic elastomer) infill, and coated silica infill. Some of these infill materials are toxic while others are non-toxic. Toxic infill material has negative heath impact on human beings. The possible negative health impacts of synthetic turf include chemical exposures, injury, and health-related illnesses. However, there is a need for more future research work to determine the effect of synthetic turf on aquatic ecosystems.