WASHINGTON - A parents' group known as Tireless DC tells FOX 5 that 11 artificial turf fields in the District have failed their most recent round of testing, leading to closures and replacements, and igniting another debate over the safety of synthetic turf.
D.C.'s Department of General Services (DGS) maintains and tests the 50 synthetic turf fields in the city. DGS did not make a list of the 11 failing fields available to FOX 5, but a task order from DGS shared with us shows the city is spending nearly $1 million to replace four turf fields at Janney, Eaton, Ross and Tubman elementary schools.
Tireless DC tells FOX 5 those schools are among the 11 fields that failed an annual test by DGS, which was first reported by DCist. A number under 200G is considered safe by some industry experts and that is the guideline DGS uses.
The field at McKinley Technical High School is also among the list of failing fields, according to football coaches at the school. It is now back open for contact sports after repairs were made.
The parents' group says it has been pushing DGS to make the public more aware of the risks associated with turf fields since the spring, when tests revealed the field at Janney Elementary School was unsafe. The group believes DGS and D.C. Public Schools hid that information from the public since they did not make anyone aware of the results until August.
Janney Elementary School's principal sent a letter to parents at the start of the school year letting them know the field failed a safety test and that it would be closed for replacement. The field is nearing completion, according to a DGS spokeswoman.
Parents expressed frustration over not learning of the test results sooner and the timing of the repair during the school year.
"The timing is really what was the biggest frustration because if it was known last spring, there was a lot of downtime during the summer, and at this point, it has impacted the practices," said Janney Elementary School parent Christine Lucy.
Dr. Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, expressed concern about the fact that the synthetic turf industry faces little government regulation.
"We really know very little about what is in artificial turf, but when studies have been done, they find a wide range of very toxic materials, including materials that can cause children to have attention deficit problems, can exacerbate asthma or obesity and can even in the long run cause cancer," Dr. Zuckerman said.
In Montgomery County, seven artificial turf fields used by the school system are tested twice yearly by the manufacturers.