Artificial turf, usually constructed of polyethylene plastic grass and an in-fill base of "crumb rubber" from ground-up recycled tires (as many as 10,000 in a single field) have become increasingly popular in communities all across the country.
As more grass fields are converted to synthetic turf (according to a spokesperson for the Synthetic Turf Council in Atlanta about 900 new synthetic turf fields were installed at schools nationwide in 2008), however, a debate has been heating up about possible health risks and the advantages and disadvantages of artificial turf fields.
The following is a summary of the pros and cons of artificial turf:
Lower maintenance costs. While the initial cost (around $600K) is high, proponents claim that upkeep is much less expensive, dropping by some estimates from $35K to $5K per year. Some question whether artificial turf is as financially friendly as touted, citing the need for repairs, vacuuming, refilling and even watering, suggesting that the fields may not last as long as advertised, and raising the thorny problem of disposal.
Pesticide-free. Unlike natural grass, artificial turf doesn't require treatment with pesticides and fertilizers (note, however, the success some towns are having with organic grass fields).
Increased playability. Artificial turf fields are much more durable than grass; because playability is much higher, they allow broader access; can be played on all the time; in time of scarce fields, they give youth sports organizations practice space they might otherwise not have; the problem of spring and fall rains which result in cancellation of numerous games and practices slated for grass fields is eliminated; one match on a muddy field can ruin the field for the rest of the season.
Fewer injuries: Durability and an even playing surface mean fewer injuries and unlike grass that gets torn up by rough play and eventually turns into vast patches of slippery mud (twisted ankles from potholes, uneven playing surface, slips in the mud).
Saves water. An average grass playing field uses about 50,000 gallons of water per week during the growing season."