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Sure Artificial Turf is Convenient - But Is It Safe?

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

If you do a Google search (or Bing I suppose, if that’s your flavor), you’re going to find yourself very quickly diving into a confusing, disturbing, and in the end unclear pile of articles. From news agencies to turf installation companies to the Synthetic Turf Council, you’ll see results, and answers, of every form. Some will say artificial grass is completely safe. Others will proclaim it is causing cancer all the time. Why do all of these sources have such different answers to such a simple question?


The reason may surprise you. No, it isn’t that anyone is lying. I’m sorry to say that it’s not that someone is ill informed. When you do your Google search (even Yahoo if you like), the twisting, turning, dizzy list of “Yes, it’s safe” and “No it’s not” is not a list of answers to one question. Sure, you only asked one question. But the answers you got don’t all answer your question. In short, those in favor of and against artificial turf for safety reasons are answering two different questions.

We value clarity and honesty here so I’m going to be very clear on this: There is some evidence that crumb rubber may cause health problems. But wait. What on earth is crumb rubber? I’m glad you asked! To give you the best answer let me illustrate for you.


You’re watching a football game. In the interest of not starting a very real turf war in our comments,

Sport turf crumb rubber

I’ll forgo telling you who is playing. A player is holding the ball. He pivots and jumps over an opponent landing directly in the end zone. As he does, a wave of small, black pellets bounces up in response to the force of his body. The pellets rain down again. The player doesn’t take any notice. He stands and does a victory shuffle as he scores the winning touchdown!


That wave of small, black pellets is crumb rubber – a material made of tiny pieces of recycled tire. Crumb rubber is added to artificial turf sports fields to provide additional bounce and shock absorption. Remember that artificial grass is installed on top of rock not dirt. Making the winning touchdown against rock is less than pleasant unless there is something to help soften the blow. The artificial grass itself softens the landing quite a bit, but to absorb the shock that a pile of football players creates, crumb rubber is added to the field as infill.

synthetic grass up close

Infill is a coating of fine material that gets worked in between the “blades” of artificial grass to sit at the very bottom. It’s there to protect the backing from UV rays and absorb shock. There are many types of infill and crumb rubber is only one of them.


Returning to the question at hand: Crumb rubber is, again, made of recycled tire. As it sits out in the sun it not only gets quite hot but can also let off gases that may not be safe to be around all the time. But here is the key: You, I’m willing to guess, are not installing a football field for professional, heavy use in your backyard. So, while this information is concerning, it’s not actually relevant to your project. This is the key to why those Google (or Ask Jeeves) search results are so confused. When you read an article about artificial grass being unsafe, what they mean is that crumb rubber is unsafe. Artificial grass itself has never been the problem. It’s not the green plastic bits on a field anyone is worried about, it’s the black rubber bits.


 

Now that we cleared that up and you know that fake grass can be perfectly safe, let’s talk action. What can you do to protect your family while still getting the low maintenance artificial turf installation you’ve been dreaming of?


The best thing you can do is ask questions.

Adorable puppy on fake grass

The first thing to ask about is infill. Crumb rubber is only one of a wide variety of types. When getting quotes for your synthetic turf installation, make sure to ask about the infill. A quality installer should be able to provide you with an infill option that is non-toxic. It should be safe for your pets, your kids, and you, too! On a Bella Rosa estimate, look for “Premium Infill” for an option that meets all of these specifications and helps with pet odors too!


Beware, however, of an installation that would only offer Silica sand as an option for infill. Silica sand is a good option for a low traffic area like a front yard no one walks on but should be avoided for areas that will have kiddos and pets rolling around on it. While it’s considered safer than crumb rubber, it’s still not safe to inhale all the time.


Next, ask if the grass is safety and quality tested. There should be testing done to confirm that products are safe to become a staple part of our lives the way our front and back yards are. Your installer should be able to obtain reports from the manufacturer of the turf to show that it is lead safe, amongst other measurements.


Great! Now you’ve done your homework and know that your artificial grass and the infill that will go on top of it are both safe. What’s left?


Now that you’re becoming a bit of an artificial lawn expert, you may be wondering why sports fields use crumb rubber at all if there are safer options out there on the market. The biggest reason is that while our Premium Infill will absorb plenty of shock for you and your family and protect the backing of your fake turf, it would not absorb the shock of a professional quarterback getting sacked. Crumb rubber, being made of tire, simply absorbs more shock and provides more bounce than the synthetic sands that are available for residential use can. There are advancements being made. Some companies are even starting to use cork instead of crumb rubber. For now, though, bits of tire come with the territory of the vast, sprawling sports fields.


Hey, it’s not often that innovation comes to the little guy first. So enjoy it! Your new front, side, or back yard is only a click away. Just let us know you’d like to learn more by clicking here. And don’t forget, you can ask us to give you peace of mind by talking safety. Letting you rest easy on a hammock above your new fake turf? Yeah, that’s what we’re here for.

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