Letters to the Editor “As A Public Health Professional…”

As a public health professional focused on orthopedic-related injuries, I am astounded by the extent to which some communities consider it essential to create child super-athletes. Children often begin intensive athletics too early in life and are plagued by overuse injuries, knee problems, ankle sprains and related ailments. By their teenage years, all too many kids have developed chronic conditions, risking a lifetime of pain.

Partly to support super-athletes, the Irvington School Board is asking the community to vote on a school bond featuring the installation of GeoTurf, an artificial surface composed of 25 tons of plastic grass.  The blades stand with the support of 2-3 inches of a cork and coconut infill interspersed among them. Although this kind of infill is somewhat less toxic than the crumb rubber used on older artificial turf, Geoturf, like all forms of artificial turf, places children at higher risk of injury.

Why?  Because GeoTurf requires meticulous, extensive, and frequent maintenance, and even a small slippage in maintenance can lead to knee and ankle injuries by reducing shock absorption and creating uneven surfaces as the infill is displaced. The school district could even face lawsuits when poor field maintenance results in such injuries.

Why?  Because just two weeks ago, the temperature of a Geoturf field in Riverdale, one of the few such installations in the country, was measured at thirty degrees higher than the air temperature.  Such temperatures can produce heat stroke in students who play on it.

Why?  Because studies have shown that artificial turf, unlike natural grass, does not self-sanitize.  Turf systems are exposed to bodily fluids, animal excrement and algae growth, creating prime environments for bacterial growth.  These conditions can result in dangerous staph infections transmitted through abrasion burns and cuts. Protect our children by voting NO on October 7th.

Ilene Wachs
Irvington, NY

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