San Francisco Synthetic Turf Propaganda  


       More and more San Francisco neighborhoods have recently found themselves facing a high pressure sales pitch

to convert their grass lawn parks into synthetic tire waste fields by City Fields/SF Rec & Parks spokespersons.

The following is intended to cut through the hype.


The City Fields Foundation is led by 2 public relations professionalss

     Patrick Hannan, (City Fields "director of communications") whos' specialty is "strategic communications" 

       Susan Hirsch, of Hirsch & Associates,

SF Recreation and Parks is represented by

       Dan Mauer, who works in the "Capital Division", his presentations about the synthetic tire waste materials are basically repeats of the sales pitches of the manufacturers, including using their provided sales props.


        The following is a recent release from the SF RPD. It contains pretty much verbatim the same misinformation disseminated by the City Fields Foundation in their releases and power points


Synthetic Turf – Health and Environmental Questions and Answers


Recently some misleading information was posted about the upcoming synthetic turf renovation of the Kimbell Playground Athletic Field.  San Francisco Recreation and Parks wants to be sure you have up-to-date and accurate information about the safety of synthetic turf.


Are synthetic turf fields safe?

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission examined the safety of synthetic turf and in the July 2008 declared it “OK to install, OK to play on”.  1- what this report really says


In April 2008, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission established a task force of scientists and park users to review all the synthetic turf-related issues and research, and provide recommendations. 

The task force developed some practical suggestions to improve artificial turf installations in San Francisco and identified several research gaps meriting further study.  Recreation and Parks is already planning additional local tests to compare to national data and is incorporating the task force’s suggestions into future planning efforts. 2- who was included and excluded from this task force 


The task force findings and recommendations were incorporated into the Synthetic Playfield Task Force Report, which was accepted by the Recreation and Park Commission in October, 2008.



Prior to these reports, in January and February 2008, the San Francisco Department of the Environment and the Department of Public Health reviewed existing studies and conducted one of their own, and found no reason to close or stop installing artificial turf fields and even identified several environmental benefits such as reduced water and pesticide use.



“SFE recognizes that human health risks are minimal from exposure to crumb rubber infill used with synthetic turf products, according to the OEHHA study

(California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.”

– SF Dept of the Environment, January 2008



“At this time, SFDPH does not recommend a moratorium on the continued installation and use of artificial turf playfields in San Francisco… We will continue to stay apprised of emerging research, to communicate with our expert colleagues and to follow national and international regulatory and legislative developments.  We are committed to identifying and evaluation important research or policy developments in a timely manner to determine if there is good cause to reconsider this assessment.”

– SF Dept of Public Health, February 2008



Previously, in January 2007, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released a study outdoor play and track surfaces using similar recycled rubber to that in synthetic turf. According to the Synthetic Playfields Task Force Report, “OEHHA found no evidence that rubberized matting used in playgrounds, similar in composition to synthetic turf infill, would cause danger or harm to human health through ingestion, inhalation or by skin contact.




Does synthetic turf cause staph infections?

No. According to the SF Department of Public Health’s February 2008 memo, “MRSA is now a common disease in the community, primarily spread from skin to skin contact, and we are not aware of evidence that suggests artificial turf as a vehicle of infection. Any type of skin breakdown, including “turf burns,” may provide a portal of entry for infection thus in order to prevent MRSA or other infection, athletes and children should practice standard wound care in the event of turf burn, regardless of the type of turf on which the injury occurs.”

 8- what is the truth about what RPD / City Fields knows  


The memo was written in consultation with Dr. Erica Pan, a SF Department of Public Health physician

expert in MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) staph bacteria.

According to the Synthetic Playfields Task Force Report, Dr. Pan “emphasized that MRSA

is not a problem on grass or synthetic turf because people get these infections from skin contact,

open sores and contact with other people.

To prevent infection, the Department of Public Health recommends proper wound care.”

9- what others say


The task force report summarized its findings by saying: “The study group did not find evidence

that there is any greater risk to the public health from bacteria growing on a synthetic field

versus bacteria found elsewhere in the environment.”

10- who wrote the report


How is the turf cleaned? Is a special detergent required?

The Recreation and Park Department regularly cleans the fields of debris and grooms the turf to improve play.  While different brands of turf have slightly different maintenance requirements, the basics are the same – weekly sweeping to pick up small debris like leaves and bottle caps, and bi-monthly grooming using a large “broom drag” to even out the rubber infill and raise the turf fibers. Some companies also suggest bi-monthly grooming using a “field groomer” which loosens the infill and brushes the fibers up.


Special detergents are not recommended for synthetic turf fields and are not used in San Francisco.

When the turf requires extra cleaning, park staff uses soap and water as recommended by the turf manufacturers.

11- what the manufacturers recommend


Are players more likely to get injured on synthetic turf fields?

No. According to the Synthetic Playfields Task Force Report, “injury rates appear to be most closely related to the type of sport and no significant difference were found for injuries on artificial turf when compared to

well-maintained natural turf. However, two studies found more skin abrasions on artificial turf, which could contribute to infections if not properly cared for with first aid.”

12- what do the professionals say  


Do San Francisco synthetic turf fields get too hot for play?

No. San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department has never had a single complaint about their artificial turf fields getting too hot for play, and has never closed a field due to hot weather.

13- the truth about what they know  


Will synthetic turf fields pollute our water?

No. According to the Synthetic Playfields Task Force Report, any water runoff that exceeds national or state

water standards can and will be diverted into the City’s wastewater system for filtration and purification.



More Questions?


If you have additional questions, please call Recreation and Parks’ Dan Mauer at 415/581-2542.






 The SF Rec & Parks/City Fields "Winter/Spring 2009" PowerPoint presentation  

This PowerPoint has only 2 frames in the whole presentation addressing "Health and Environment".


The 2 "Health and Environment" frames make the following 4 references; 

             1)  a US Consumer Product Safety Commission press release entitled

    “CPSC Staff finds Synthetic Fields, OK to Install, OK to Play On”click here

      This self-described as "limited" CPSC evaluation doesn't include any analysis of the tire waste infill,

      City Fields most likely includes this report because of its misleading title.

2) the San Francisco Synthetic Fields Task Force Report. click here

      The Task Force found that they could not attest to, or draw any conclusions about the safety of the

      synthetic tire waste fields, or if they pose a health and/or environmental risk.

      This RPD/City Fields authored report mostly makes repeated promises to look into future research.

3) a statement that the "SF Department of the Environment and the SF Department of Public Health could find

     no reason to close or stop installing synthetic tire waste fields".    

    The SFDPE correspondence upon which this statement is based is over 2 years old. click here

    The SFDPH correspondence is a draft memo that is over a year old. click here

     Both admit they rely heavily on the 2007 OEHHA report listed below. click here

    Both the SF Dept. of Environment & Dept.of Public Health have since expressed greater concern.

     (additionally, someone altered the original Jan 9, 2007 SFDPE correspondence to read Jan 9, 2008) click here


4)   a January 2007 CA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)    click here

       (which was designed to analyze compressed playground matting).

            In reference to this OEHHA report, City Fields has publically misrepresented  

   rubberized matting as being similar in composition to shredded tire infill, 

                In fact compacted rubberized matting is a solid tile and is therefore very different in composition

        to loose shredded tires. 

               Within the report the OEHHA discloses about shredded tire on playfields; 

              it "harbors/hides foreign objects" 

             "is flammable"

             "is less accessible to the disabled"

             "can be swallowed by children"   

          It goes on to say, the OEHHA did an evaluation of toxicity due to ingestion of tire shreds.                          They conducted a gastric digestion experiment about which they wrote;                                                             "22 chemicals were found to be released by tire shreds incubated for 21 hours",                                             “Five of the chemicals released by tire shreds in the gastric digestion experiment were carcinogens" ,             “Should this behavior (ingestion) be repeated in the same child, the risk would increase proportionally".

   The City Fields PowerPoint relies heavily on the use of the "before and after" technique by using photographs           of dehydrated fields that the RPD had allowed to be poorly maintained.

  The PowerPoint suggests the idea of the "ankle breaker" fields or what they now are calling "el parquet donde te rompes pie" or "the park where you break your foot".

What they are usually complaining about are gopher holes.

Gopher holes can be found in some fields in San Francisco. 

Gophers are a shallow burrowing mammel.

Inexpensive ¾" mesh, 20-gauge wire  is an humane and effective gopher barrier. click here

More soccer friendly sprinkler heads are another inexpensive idea.  click here


 Common Misleading Claims Made by City Fields Spokespersons                


City Fields claims that they have added "play capacity".

City Fields to date has not added a single square inch of play surface in San Francisco. 


  A synthetic tire waste surface is so limiting that their 8 year warranty disallows and/or discourages;

·   any recreation that requires stakes in the ground (volleyball, badminton, croquet,

   footbag-hacky sack with a net, etc.)


   any athletes in a wheelchair, leg braces, walkers (walking aids)

·   any baseball / softball leagues that require a dirt base path or allow metal cleats,

·   golf swing practice


A synthetic tire waste surface warranty also disallows and/or discourages;

                 ·   any bicycles, baby strollers,

·    chairs, tables

·    any non-water drinks (sports drinks, soft drinks, fruit juices, etc. )

·   any type of food or snacks  (picnics, chewing gum, etc.) 


any open flame or heat source such as a bar-b-que or smoking

                 ·   many summer camp program activities, arts and crafts,

                  ·   athletes sensitive to tire waste dust


 ( A grass lawn, on the other hand, is an extremely versatile naturally rejuvenating play surface.)


A City Field spokesperson said that, “MRSA is not a problem on grass or synthetic turf because people get these infections from skin contact, open sores and contact with other people.”

This is not true. A person can become infected with MRSA, (a multi-drug resistant bacterium), by:

contact with surfaces and objects that have been touched or used by someone carrying MRSA,

and/or contact with dust that contains skin particles carrying MRSA      click here


City Fields said that, “we are not aware of evidence that suggests artificial turf as a vehicle of MRSA infection.”

In fact many studies, including a 2005 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine,

links MRSA to the abrasions caused by artificial turf.    click here  


City Fields said that, “Synthetic turf fields are inorganic and not a hospitable environment for bacteria.” 

Synthetic fields are inorganic. What is organic and an extremely hospitable environment for bacteria  is the various forms of material left or excreted on the fields by animals, people, and nature in general.

click here


A City Field spokesperson said that, “Organic materials left on a field don’t grow, they dry up.” 

 This is not true, especially in a moist foggy environment like San Francisco. click here


        A City Field spokesperson has criticized the following statement, calling it disingenuous, 

“the city of San Francisco Synthetic Fields Task Force identified 11 environmental and health issues of public concern”.

In fact this directly quoted from the San Francisco Synthetic Fields Task Force report

as well as the task force transcripts.

The Task Force members formed study groups around the following topics of concern:

1.      Bacteria/Staph Infection

2.      Climate Change and Heat Island Effects

3.      Ecosystem

4.      Injuries

5.      Material Composition: Overall Chemical Composition and Flammability

6.      Material Composition: Air Quality/Off Gassing

7.      Material Composition: Ingestion – Inhalation of Turf Product Materials

8.      Material Composition: Lead

9.      Obesity

10.  Turf Products: Alternative Field Products

11.  Turf Products: Recyclability

 An additional issue that was suggested but ignored by the RPD facilitator 

is the lack of access to the fields by wheelchair athletes and others with disabilities.  


City Fields likes to describe the tire waste as having been cryogenically cleaned

(cryogenically “cleaned” simply describes a method for converting rubber in tires into rubber crumb). 



That the tire crumb has been encapsulated.

This is not true, in fact much of the tire waste is in the form of dust.  


That their have been multiple task forces set up by San Francisco to look into the effects of synthetic tire waste playfields.

This is not true. There has been only one and it was rigged at best. No official public outreach was made. According to an RPD management rep, only 5 people were refused membership. Coincidentally, all 5 had spoken to the Parks Commission in dissent. One rejected applicant had direct experience with the technology, 5 neighborhood associations supporting his membership, and a medical background.

The task force was made up almost exclusively of City Fields Supporters. Attendance was poor and participation lethargic.