Is Artificial Turf Toxic? Addressing Safety Concerns for Families

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is artificial turf toxic



Artificial turf has become increasingly popular for homeowners seeking a low-maintenance, evergreen alternative to natural grass

However, concerns about the safety of artificial turf, particularly regarding its chemical composition, have raised questions among parents and homeowners. 

This article delves into the safety of artificial turf, specifically focusing on the Challenger grass that I installed in my own yard, addressing safety concerns for my toddler.


What Is Artificial Turf?

Plastic grass is made of synthetic fibers (also in green) designed to mimic natural grass blades. The synthetic grass used in many athletic fields or home landscapes is often polypropylene, polyethylene, and nylon. (1)

Sand and rubber infills make the sports fields softer and safer than the hard plastic grass used in the first artificial turf systems in the 1960s and 1970s. However, their safety regarding toxic chemical content is also debated (discussed below). (2)

Here’s a cross-section of a typical artificial turf system: (2)

(source: (2)


Is Artificial Grass Toxic To Humans?

Yes. Artificial turf might be toxic to humans, depending on the materials used for their production. (1)

Studies conducted by the Institute For Climate Change, Environmental Health, And Exposomics (of the New York-based Mount Sinai Health System’s Icahn School of Medicine) showed that many of these artificial grass products could contain the following toxins and potential or known carcinogens: (1)

(source: (1)


According to the Mount Sinai report, benzene, phthalates, and the other carcinogenic and toxic chemicals listed on the table were found on the grass blades, crumb rubber, and other infill types. (1)

However, according to the Synthetic Turf Council, 50+ studies, tests, and assessments done by government agencies showed that artificial turf doesn’t pose significant public health concerns: (2)

  • An October 2010 California Office of Environmental Assessment report based on a multi-year assessment showed “no public health concerns” for both bacteria on the plastic grass and air quality above crumb rubber-infill turf.
  • A July 2010 announcement by the Connecticut Department of Public Health indicated “no elevated health risks” to kids or adults using plastic grass with no elevated health risks.
  • A July 2009 California Environmental Protection Agency report showed that inhaling air above an artificial turf carries “negligible human health risk.”
  • A May 2009 report of tests conducted by the New York State Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation indicated synthetic turf fields posed “no significant health concerns.”
  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission approved synthetic turf use in July 2008.


Synthetic turf is commonly used in playing fields, playgrounds, and landscaping

While the Synthetic Turf Council vouches for artificial turf safety (of affiliated manufacturers and system builders), the Mount Sinai report recommends caution, citing inadequate risk assessment studies in “realistic play conditions” for all possible exposure routes. (1)


How Are Kids Exposed To Toxic Chemicals In Synthetic Turf

Exposure to these toxic chemicals can happen via inhalation, skin contact, and even possible ingestion of infill particles (or babies chewing on the grass blades or ingesting crumb rubber). (1)

(source: (1)


Understanding PFAS And Their Use In Artificial Turf

One of the primary concerns about artificial turf is the presence of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a group of chemicals used in various industrial applications for their water and grease-resistant properties. (1)

The EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) explains that PFAS are considered harmful ‘forever chemicals’ resistant to degradation. The strong carbon-fluorine bonds in these chemicals make them ideal for long-lasting synthetic grass. (3)(4)(5)

The bad news is that because PFAS don’t degrade easily, they can stay in the environment or the human body for long (hence the ‘forever chemical’ moniker). (6)(7)

Exposure to PFAS can: (3)(5)

  • Lead to cancer
  • Affect the liver and heart
  • Effect endocrine disruption (including the reproductive system, pituitary and thyroid glands, and the hypothalamus)
  • Cause immune and developmental damage, especially to babies and children


The good news is that some PFAS might not be toxic, as explained below.

PFAS chemicals are categorized into two main types: soluble and non-soluble. (8) 

Soluble PFAS, such as PFOA and PFOS, have been linked to health issues (e.g., cancer) and have been banned from many consumer products. (8)

Water-insoluble PFAS (such as fluoropolymers) chemicals have a larger and higher molecular weight than soluble PFAS. They also have a longer chain. Because they’re larger and aren’t soluble in water, they are less likely to cross cellular membranes. This makes them less likely to pose environmental and human health risks. (8)

These ‘good’ PFAS chemicals are even safe enough to be approved for medical devices, including blood collection bags, prosthetics, implantable devices, and endoscopic equipment. (8)

(source: (8)


In an interview with Mark, a chemical engineer from TenCate Grass, the manufacturer of Challenger grass we installed, we explored the specifics of PFAS usage in their products. 

Mark emphasized that TenCate has never used the harmful soluble types of PFAS in their artificial turf

Instead, they have used non-soluble PFAS, which are not linked to health issues and are used in minimal amounts (about 100 parts per million) solely for lubricating the manufacturing process​​.


Safety Of The Materials Used In Challenger Grass

The artificial turf from Challenger, which I installed in my yard, primarily consists of polyethylene and polyurethane. 

Mark explained that polyethylene is an inert material, meaning it does not chemically react with other substances, making it safe for human contact. 

The polyurethane backing used in the turf is also safe, as it undergoes rigorous testing to ensure it does not release harmful chemicals​​.

Mark reassured that the turf itself is non-toxic and poses no risk to children, even if they touch or ingest small amounts of it. 

He highlighted that the potential for harm from artificial turf is most probably far less than that from natural grass treated with pesticides and herbicides. 

Mark shared a personal anecdote about his own dog, which developed health issues likely due to exposure to lawn chemicals​​.


Addressing Concerns About Heat And Off-Gassing

One of the common concerns with artificial turf is the heat it can generate, especially in warm climates like Southern California

Artificial grass surfaces can heat up to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit higher than natural grass, posing heat illness and/or skin burn risks. (1)

While the turf can get hot, Mark assured that this does not affect the chemical stability of the materials. The turf is designed to withstand temperatures up to 280 degrees Fahrenheit without degrading or releasing harmful substances​​.

Regarding off-gassing, Mark explained that any potential off-gassing would have occurred during the initial installation process. The turf is designed to be inert, meaning it does not release VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or other harmful gases even when exposed to high temperatures. This is particularly important for parents who are concerned about their children playing close to the turf​​.


Environmental And Health Standards Compliance

TenCate Grass, the company behind Challenger turf, adheres to strict environmental and health standards. They continuously test their products for compliance with California‘s CAM-17 regulations, which cover a range of hazardous substances. 

The company also ensures that their products meet Proposition 65 requirements, which mandate warnings for products containing chemicals that might cause cancer or reproductive harm​​.

Moreover, TenCate has taken proactive steps to phase out the use of PFAS altogether, opting for alternative materials that do not compromise on safety or performance. This commitment to environmental responsibility expands to their zero-waste-to-landfill policy and fully recyclable turf products​​.


Understanding The Role Of Crumb Rubber And Infill In Synthetic Turf

Crumb rubber infill is often used in synthetic turf fields to provide cushioning and improve the durability of the turf. (2)

This material is made from recycled tires. It can contain various chemicals, including heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). (2)

Concerns have been raised about the potential tire crumb rubber infill’s health risks, particularly regarding its possible link to cancer risk and other health issues.

However, not all synthetic turf fields use crumb rubber infill

Other options include: (2)

  • Silica (sand)
  • Coated silica sand (with elastomer or acrylic)
  • Coated rubber (with sealant, colorants, or anti-microbial substances)
  • Organic (e.g., cork or ground coconut shell fibers)
  • Elastomers such as EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) or TPE (thermoplastic elastomer)


In the case of the Challenger grass installed in my yard, we opted for a silica-based infill, which is considered inert and safe. Mark explained that parents have the option to choose different types of infill, depending on their safety preferences and the specific needs of their artificial turf fields​​.


The Impact Of Artificial Turf On Human Health And The Environment

The debate over artificial turf safety often centers on its potential impact on human health and the environment. While some studies have raised concerns about the possible health risks associated with synthetic turf, including the presence of heavy metals (for example, cadmium, lead, arsenic, etc.) and toxic chemicals, other research has found no significant health effects. (2)(5)(7)

Mark highlighted that TenCate Grass is committed to ensuring the safety of their products by adhering to strict testing protocols and continuously monitoring for harmful chemicals. He emphasized that the polyethylene and polyurethane used in their artificial turf are inert materials, meaning they do not pose a risk of chemical exposure or health concerns for children playing on the turf​​.


Addressing Public Health Concerns: A Comparative Perspective

In comparison to natural grass, which often requires the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals, synthetic turf can be a safer option for families concerned about chemical exposure. Mark pointed out that the health risks associated with the maintenance of natural grass, such as exposure to pesticides and herbicides, can be more significant than any potential risks from artificial turf​​.

Additionally, the environmental impact of artificial turf should be considered. While synthetic turf does not require watering, mowing, or chemical treatments, it does contribute to the production of microplastics when it degrades over time. However, TenCate Grass’s commitment to a zero-waste-to-landfill policy and fully recyclable products helps mitigate this environmental impact​​.


Conclusion: Peace of Mind for Parents

As a parent, ensuring the safety of the environment in which our children play is paramount. 

The information provided by Mark from TenCate Grass offers reassurance that the artificial turf installed in my yard is safe for my toddler and our growing family. 

The turf’s materials are inert and non-toxic, with rigorous testing backing their safety claims. Additionally, the company’s commitment to phasing out PFAS and adhering to stringent environmental standards further underscores their dedication to product safety.

I was happy to know that while artificial turf can get hot during the summer, this does not compromise its chemical stability or pose a risk to children playing on it. 

For families considering artificial turf, understanding these aspects can provide peace of mind, knowing that the turf in their yard is not only convenient and aesthetically pleasing but also safe for their loved ones.

In summary, the Challenger grass installed in my yard by TenCate Grass was a safe choice for families with young children, and I feel confident enough to keep it. 

The non-soluble PFAS used in the manufacturing process are not harmful, and the materials used in the turf are inert and non-toxic. 

What gives me additional piece of mind is the stringent testing and a commitment to environmental responsibility. 


Synthetic Grass FAQs

Does Artificial Turf Leach Chemicals?

According to the Mount Sinai report, several bodies of water near sports fields and other areas with artificial turf showed PFAS. This could mean that runoff from these synthetic turfs may have leached down the soil and into these water bodies. (1)

Leaching (chemicals draining into the soil and water bodies, usually due to rain) is a significant safety issue because PFAS exposure can affect humans even through skin contact. While drinking water might be safe (it goes through tests), bathing or swimming in contaminated waters can expose you and your family to PFAS. These chemicals are odorless, colorless, and undetectable to the human eye. (1)(7)

The Mount Sinai report further warned that PFAS has become a common water contaminant that may be detected in the bodies of most Americans. (1)

In a 2022 Environmental Pollution Journal study, chicken eggs injected with crumb rubber leachate  (contaminated water collected near the subject) showed endocrine disruption and impaired development. Although human studies are limited to cancer incidence, these results may still cause concern. (7)


Is Artificial Grass Unsanitary?

Generally, artificial turf itself isn’t likely to be the source of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and other staph infections experienced by players on artificial grass sports fields. However, contamination can happen, and bacteria might grow in the infills. (2)

The Synthetic Turf Council recommends proper irrigation and regular cleaning. (2)

The type of infill might also affect artificial turf sanitation. For example, a 2008 Environmental Health Perspectives study explained that sand-rubber combination infill may have 50,000 times higher bacteria levels than rubber-only infill. (9)

However, updated silica (sand) guidelines have helped ensure reduced absorption of bacteria and other pathogens or contaminants: (2)

  • Must be high-purity (more than 90%) 
  • Can be coated with different materials (e.g., non-toxic elastomer or acrylic) and used as a standalone product
  • Can be combined with traditional crumb rubber infill systems


Why Is Artificial Turf Banned?

Several US cities and municipalities have issued moratoriums or bans against artificial turf due to environmental (e.g., leaching, runoffs, grass blade migration, and microplastics) and human health concerns (e.g., cancer, endocrine disruption, etc.). (10)(11)

For example, activists documented plastic grass migration from a high school turf field in Hull into the adjacent Boston Harbor. (11)

Bans or moratoriums have been issued in several US locations, including the following: (11)(12)(13)

  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Concord, Massachusetts
  • Edmonds, Washington
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Millbrae, California
  • Sharon, Massachusetts
  • Wayland, Massachusetts
  • Westport, Connecticut


Anecdotal evidence also showed that there might be a higher cancer incidence among soccer and football players. (12)(14)

For example, a University of Washington assistant women’s soccer coach (identified as “Coach Griffin”) listed at least 53 former players, mostly goalkeepers, who were later diagnosed with cancer. It led to a Washington State Department of Health Investigation. (12)(14)

However, according to the report, Coach Griffin’s list had a lower cancer rate than the expected rate among Washington residents. (14)

(source: (14)


With a balanced perspective, the Washington State Department of Health report pointed out the following: (14)

  • Research on artificial turf’s health effects doesn’t suggest a significant public health risk.
  • However, artificial turf safety assurances are limited due to inadequate information on their potential toxicity and actual exposure.


What’s The Artificial Turf Ban In California?

In April 2023, the California Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxics Materials Committee approved the manufacturing and sale ban on artificial turf made with PFAS or “forever chemicals.” It was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, taking effect a year later. (15)

This means that any city in California can impose a synthetic turf ban. (15)

In June 2024, the Los Angeles City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee approved the motion to ban synthetic turf, citing health and environmental reasons. However, the ban isn’t in force yet in LA. The Committee will still study the reported negative impacts of PFAS and other possible toxins in artificial turf. (16)

Synthetic Turf Council former chairman Shaun Garrity explained that PFAS are no longer used in the industry. He also explained its benefits: (16)

It (synthetic grass) eliminates the need for irrigation, reducing water use and associated costs. Furthermore, synthetic turf eliminates the need for harmful pesticides, fertilizers and fungicides — significantly reducing water pollution created by the toxic runoff from these chemicals.


What Are The Other Artificial Turf Concerns?

Microplastics From Synthetic Grass 

Although artificial turf is durable and can last years, environmental exposure (e.g., rain and snow), UV radiation from the sun, and/or wear and tear from regular use can eventually break it down. (17)

When synthetic grass breaks down, it creates microplastics. These tiny plastic pieces can contribute to environmental pollution and further health risks. (17)

Runoffs from sports fields can take these microplastics to the waterways. The wind can also scatter the tiny plastic pieces to other areas, potentially contributing to land pollution. (17)

(source: (17)


Greenhouse Gas & Global Warming Contributions From Synthetic Turf

The production and degradation of plastics, including artificial turfs, can increase greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, methane, and fluorinated gases (for products with fluorine). (18)(19)(20)

Remember that plants use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Since synthetic turf covers the grass, there’s also a reduction in their natural processors or users.

Aside from greenhouse gases, artificial turf can also contribute to global warming because it increases the average ground temperature (compared to grass). (20)


Have Artificial Turfs Been Recalled?

None. However, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) issued legal notices to Home Depot and Lowe’s in March 2024 for selling artificial turf that may contain high levels of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), a PFAS chemical. (21)(22)

Affected products include: (21)(22)

  • Lifeproof artificial turf products
  • SYNlush artificial turf products
  • Traffic Master artificial turf products


In the 60-day legal notice, the nonprofit consumer watchdog plans to file a lawsuit against Home Depot and Lowe’s unless they do the following: (21)(22)

  • Recall the products
  • Reformulate the products to eliminate the PFOS content
  • Provide clear and reasonable warnings for future products
  • Pay a civil penalty based on the California Health and Safety Code Section 25249.7(b)


As of June 2024, however, Home Depot and Lowe’s haven’t recalled the products. (23)(24)


How To Reduce The Health Risks From Artificial Grass Exposure

Here are some ways to reduce your family’s health risks from chemical exposure to artificial turf: (25)(26)

  • Ensure you and your kids wash your hands after spending time on the artificial turf field.
  • Avoid having picnics and eating on the artificial grass as much as possible.
  • Avoid walking barefoot on artificial turf fields. It’s best to wear shoes.
  • Crumb rubber might stick to your shoes (or your kid’s shoes). Take off shoes used on artificial grass before entering your house.
  • Immediately clean any equipment, toys, or clothes used on synthetic turf fields if possible.
  • Monitor babies and young children playing on artificial turf to ensure they don’t accidentally swallow crumb rubber or bite the grass blades.
  • Avoid using artificial turf indoors as much as possible unless there’s increased ventilation from open windows or doors and extra fans. Vapors from these products’ off-gassing can build up if there isn’t ample ventilation indoors. 
  • Areas with synthetic turf might heat up faster and have a higher surface temperature than natural grass. Take extra precautions to avoid burns or heat exhaustion (e.g., avoid using at noon during sunny days, increase water intake, take frequent rests away from the turf, etc.).
  • Use soap and water to clean turf burns (injury from falling too hard on the artificial grass).









(7) Murphy M, Warner GR. Health impacts of artificial turf: Toxicity studies, challenges, and future directions. Environ Pollut. 2022 Oct 1;310:119841. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2022.119841. Epub 2022 Aug 7. PMID: 35948114; PMCID: PMC10262297. 






















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