Artificial Turf – Too hot to play on?

August 7, 2008 at 9:25 am 2 comments

NPR’s Morning Edition program has an interesting story on a building controversy over artificial turf. It appears that certain types actually absorb heat and make the area too hot to safely play on.

There have always been potential concerns over exposure to hazardous chemicals due to the high recycled content found in the turf and especially the padding underneath.  However after some study the attention in now focused on the heat problem.  It is a common practice to used ground up automobile tires as a major component in the underlayment and padding.  This has several advantages including the recycling of the tires and an inexpensive way to make the surface more resilient.

As you can see at the following website, they list 100% post consumer rubber infill on all of their sports field products. ( It is also found on the commercial and residential products as well.

It is this rubber content that is the root of the heat problem.  The black rubber absorbs the heat and radiates it back up into the immediate area above the turf creating what sounds to me like a field sized convection oven. A temperature of 160 degrees F is mentioned in the NPR story!  This is not a wonderful environment for people to play on and it is a significant contributor to the urban heat island effect that we have been trying to correct for a few years now.

Also there are still concerns even though there have been studies about the heavy metals that might leach out of the recycled rubber (used tires)  as well as a need to disinfect the surface regularly as the system does not allow for the timely breakdown of biologic contaminants.  There is also some thought that it may be a vector for MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) through the abrasions caused by the turf, yes you can get “rug burns”. (

Still even with all of these drawbacks it is still an option for commercial applications in light of our current drought conditions here in the southwest and should be considered for its return on investment.

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Entry filed under: Planning, Technology. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. henry loudon  |  August 11, 2008 at 7:01 am

    As a college athlete who practices and plays on FieldTurf surfaces constantly throughout the humid east-coast summer heat, I can assure you that the field temperatures that have been measured on these artificial turf surfaces never hindered my performance or put me in a state of discomfort. On a hot day I could not tell a difference, regarding surface temperature, between playing on FieldTurf or natural grass, however, there is a noticeable temperature difference between all-rubber in-fill surfaces and sand-rubber in-fill (FieldTurf) surfaces. The all-rubber in-fill surfaces were definitely hotter in comparison to FieldTurf. Also, I find that walking on cement or an asphalt surface is significantly hotter in comparison to a FieldTurf surface, and you see plenty of kids and adults playing basketball in the summer heat on these asphalt courts, for hours on end, without complaints.
    From personal experience, when the summer heat would become unbearable, our facilities operations staff would lightly sprinkle surface with some water for some 10 minutes, which would reduce the temperature. The aspect of FieldTurf field that truly appeals to me as an athlete, who shares facilities with other teams, is that the artificial turf can endure the harsh, continual use, day in and day out, and eliminates weather concerns or the need of maintenance. Field turf ultimately allows for significantly more playing time than any other surface.

  • […] 14, 2008 In a previous post ( I wrote about some of the potential dangers that recycled tires posed from stored heat. Now it […]


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