Synthetic Turf in Alexandria

Synthetic turf is a grass-like surface material made of synthetic fibers that replicates natural grass. It is commonly used in athletic fields and playgrounds around the country.

Page updated on Sep 30, 2021 at 11:25 AM

What is synthetic turf?

Synthetic turf is a grass-like surface material made of synthetic fibers that replicates natural grass. It is commonly used in athletic fields and playgrounds around the country.

Type of Infill used?

  • Initially, fields in the City were installed with and infill material made from styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) made from recycled tires.
  • New fields, and when maintenance life cycle requires the replacement of the synthetic turf carpet, the City uses ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) infill. EPDM is a synthetic rubber manufactured for the purpose of synthetic turf infill. 
  • The City also considers a sand and EPDM mixture to reduce the amount of rubber infill. In addition, the City continues to evaluate potential use of organic materials for infill as technology advances.

What health concerns have been raised about synthetic turf fields?

  • Synthetic turf surfaces can give off more heat. This increases the need for athletes to stay hydrated to prevent heat-related illness.
  • “Turf burn” skin abrasions may occur if athletes fall and slide on synthetic turf.
  • How can I keep myself or members of my family healthy while playing on synthetic turf?
  • Keep yourself healthy by taking the same steps you use when playing on natural grass:
    • Stay hydrated, especially in the summer. Rest if you feel dizzy or too warm and remember to take breaks in play.
    • Clean any scrapes as quickly as possible. Cover any scrapes, burns, or open wounds before playing.
    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds after playing on synthetic turf. 
    • Wear athletic shoes while playing on the synthetic turf. Do not play in bare feet. 

Reviews, Studies & Reports

Alexandria Health Department Crumb Rubber Review

Alexandria Health Department (AHD) has found no evidence to date that the chemicals present in the City of Alexandria’s synthetic turf playing fields present a health concern.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

State of Washington Health Department 

The State of Washington Health Department recently concluded a study on the claims regarding crumb rubber infill. 

In 2009, the University of Washington women’s associate head soccer coach became concerned that several soccer goalies had developed blood cancers at around the same time. By 2014, the coach had compiled a list of soccer players with cancer. The initial information included 30 current or former Washington residents who played soccer and developed a variety of cancer types between the mid-1990s and 2015. By 2016, this number had grown to 53 people. In light of this, DOH and researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health formed a project team to investigate issues related to soccer playing and cancer.

The conclusion of the report found less cancer among the soccer players as a group than the general population as a whole.  Should parents be concerned about children playing on a crumb rubber infill surface:

“Parents should be aware, but not concerned. We know that crumb rubber is made from tires that contain chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer. However, what is critical to consider are the routes of exposure and potential dose someone receives. The available research suggests exposures from crumb rubber are very low and will not cause cancer among soccer players. The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who enjoy soccer continue to play regardless of the type of field surface.”

Additional Resources