California Finally Moving to Restrict Synthetic Turf

by on November 3, 2023 · 8 comments

in California, Environment, Health

by Shreya Agrawal / CalMatters  – Times of San Diego / October 22, 2023

Gov. Gavin Newsom last week passed on a chance to limit the use of the so-called “forever chemicals” in legions of plastic products when he vetoed a bill that would have banned them in synthetic lawns.

His veto of an environmental bill that overwhelmingly passed the Legislature underscores California’s convoluted guidance on the plastic turf that some homeowners, schools and businesses use in place of grass in a state accustomed to drought.

Less than a decade ago then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law prohibiting cities and counties from banning synthetic grass. At the time, the state was in the middle of a crippling drought and fake lawns were thought to be helpful in saving water.

But this year Democrats in the Legislature went in a different direction, proposing bills that would discourage synthetic turf. They’re worried about health risks created by the chemicals present in these lawns, including perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS chemicals.

Some chemicals in the crumb rubber base of synthetic turf, such as bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, can leach out during extreme heat. These chemicals have been linked to various chronic diseases including cancers, diabetes and neurological impairments.

Dianne Woelke, a retired nurse in San Diego, is among the Californians who’ve grown concerned about their neighbors’ synthetic lawns. She joined a group called Safe Healthy Playing Fields to advocate against their use.

“It’s staggering the depth of minutia involved in this product. It’s just a lot of plastic with a lot of chemicals leaching from it,” Woelke said.

One of the bills Newsom signed, for instance, undoes the Brown-era law and allows cities and counties to again ban artificial turf. Some California cities have already begun moving to prohibit fake lawns, including Millbrae in San Mateo County and San Marino in Los Angeles County.

“Emerging research is making it clear that artificial turf poses an environmental threat due to its lack of recyclability and presence of toxins such as lead and PFAS,” said state Sen. Ben Allen, the Redondo Beach Democrat who authored the bill. With the new law “local governments will again be able to regulate artificial turf in a way to both protect our environment in the face of drought and climate change but also by preventing further contribution to our recycling challenges and toxic runoff,” he said.

Manufacturers of synthetic turf say they are working to address concerns about the materials they use, although for the most part they have been unable to entirely remove PFAS. Some have switched to sand and other safer products in an attempt to replace rubber crumb.

“Our members are already working with existing customers, states, and local governments to demonstrate the continued safety of our products and are committed to ensuring their products contain no intentionally added PFAS,” Melanie Taylor, president of the Synthetic Turf Council, wrote in a statement to CalMatters.

Newsom in vetoing the PFAS chemicals bill wrote that he “strongly” supports the intent of the legislation, but he was concerned that the state was not positioned to ensure its effectiveness.

The bill “does not identify or require any regulatory agency to determine compliance with, or enforce, the proposed statute,” he wrote in his veto message.

He also wrote that he’s directing his administration to consult with lawmakers on “alternative approaches to regulating the use of these harmful chemicals in consumer products,” suggesting the issue could return in the next legislative year.

Chemical Risks from Fake Lawns

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Blavatt November 4, 2023 at 7:17 am

Remember the female soccer players during the Olympics being forced to play on Synthetic Turf? Yet the men got to play on real grass! Besides chemicals, the Synthetic Turf heated up and caused injuries. How many schools in San Diego have Synthetic Turf? How many of the yards that installed Synthetic Turf years back are now decomposing and/or have weeds growing up through them? There are other low-water alternatives that work well… stone, DG, ice plant, etc.
It was a mistake to give water-saving incentive money for plastic grass that pollutes and is dangerous! California needs to do better!


FrankF November 4, 2023 at 8:17 am

We don’t have the water to irrigate grass, now the government is telling us artificial turf is bad, so what are we going to do with our yards? Rocks?


Frank Gormlie November 4, 2023 at 11:42 am

There’s plenty of low-water gardens, succulents, cacti …. It’s not the government, bro, it’s the scientists and those already harmed by the toxic and harmful material at issue.


FrankF November 5, 2023 at 7:16 am

Ya but the toxic stuff is the ground up tires that has been used to hold the turf in place. In my humble and formerly grass covered back yard, the artificial turf installer used sand, not ground up tires.

If there’s a risk, inform me, but let me make the choice to install artificial turf or not.

Using the heavy hand of government to dictate that everyone stick with grass or install succulents and cactus isn’t cool.


sealintheSelkirks November 4, 2023 at 12:57 pm

I happened to read about astroturf last week, and found the link. Don’t know if the author of this article read it, but it certainly goes in the same direction:
Imagine walking over an OB dune-scape to get to the ocean.



Frances O'Neill Zimmerman November 4, 2023 at 2:16 pm

A generation ago the local Board of Education approved installation of fake turf at La Jolla High and other public school playing fields as a cutting-edge improvement in player safety, playability, water-saving and general wonderfulness. There was favorable testimony from pediatrician and orthopedist parents, coaches, and principals who cited National Football League ‘s trend-setting example.

It was true that expensive fake plastic fields were more level than traditional wavy, weedy, unrolled, unwatered, unseeded grass terrain chronically neglected by the School District because of costly maintenance. Only later did it become apparent that SoCal sunshine heated up synthetic field surfaces sufficient to melt sneaker soles. and that fake grass is both hot and unforgivingly hard to fall on.

Expansion of fake grass to residential neighborhoods now is found to increase air pollution and so politicians are legislating against it, rather than promoting it. One has to conclude: the more things change, the more they remain the same.


retired botanist November 4, 2023 at 3:00 pm

To FrankF, I’m biting the inside of my cheek b/c I mean no offense, but…yeah…rocks are good, and fake stuff is bad- especially if it leaches chemicals and is comprised of plastic. :-). Think of it this way? Its like, its best to eat apples in the fall, root vegetables in the winter, etc; or plant stuff that typically grows and occurs in the natural, surrounding habitat. Prior to landscaping, San Diego Co was desert, so almost anything that doesn’t reflect that means high maintenance, big footprint and, frankly, weird visual aesthetic. Tbh, I get it/you, and desert xeriscape has never been my favorite- I’ve mostly grown up in the subtropics- but artificial turfs are a non-starter, anywhere. I think if you could chat w/ a good landscaper you could find a way around planting rocks, and create a “leafier” effect. :-)


sealintheSelkirks November 5, 2023 at 2:37 pm

I’ve been living in rural forested mountains for almost 20 years with no concrete, asphalt, or fences. I actually broke up and removed a concrete walkway from the vegetable garden fence years ago and let the forest come back. I see 8 acres of healing land when I look out the window…but I admit I do have one fence that surrounds the dogs’ run for when I’m off-property due to having adopted various dogs over the years that have serious ‘separation anxiety.’ Can’t have them running down the county gravel road after me!

My main problem is mainly invasives which I’ve used bio-control on one major one (Chinese Knapweed) which has worked way above my expectations.

But in disclosure I do have Astroturf here! Years ago during one of my major repair jobs on this house I was pricing new carpet from a jobber/outlet store and the guy mentioned that he had a huge roll of carpet-grade Astroturf in the back if I was interested. Long story short (amazing for me, eh?) I bought and installed it from the east wall of the music room to the west wall of the front room excepting a strip along the south side, from the front door to the bathroom which, along with the kitchen, I went with wood laminate.

It has worn really well the last…15 years. It’s never in direct sunlight, either. Very easy to vacuum, washes up ‘accidents’ quick from various dogs, and because the toxic chemicals that were listed in the new carpet were so awful I thought I would be able to avoid having to breathe those floating particles in a house that gets seriously closed up during sub-zero winters… Now it turns out that Astroturf is horrible, too, but then it’s freaking plastic which is a base of petroleum so somehow I’m not really surprised.

Bare floors just don’t work here in winter, though. Uncovered floors radiate cold at those temps because the air below is outside temps. But I still like walking on Astroturf and it does help insulate those two rooms, so I’m keeping it.



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