Concerned citizens have been asserting that artificial turf is a poor choice for Newton for many reasons, but because artificial turf becomes significantly hotter than natural grass — by 35-55 degrees or greater — the danger it poses as temperatures rise is increasingly important.

Heat Advisory. Artificial turf “heat islands” affect everyone, not only athletes and coaches, but maintenance workers and spectators as well.

“…Even with adaptive behaviors, at certain temperatures or humidity levels, no one is safe outside for extended periods of time…“ says Dr. Aaron Bernstein* in a recent Atlantic article.

“Children have an especially difficult time with excess heat that interfere with this regulatory process because they do not thermoregulate like adults,* warns Brita Lundberg, MD, Chair of the Board at Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility.

A Hidden Vulnerability. Given that many adults and children take medications that can impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature, exercise in hot and humid weather on artificial turf can be especially dangerous. These medications include some antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, stimulants, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications.

Some medications may increase sweating, while others impair sweat production. Some medications may lower blood pressure, while others impair cognitive functioning in extreme heat. Medication can make it difficult for the body to cool itself down so adults and children can develop a high body temperature that can be fatal.

Playability. A natural grass field is cooler than artificial turf at the same ambient temperature so grass is a safer, more playable surface at temperatures that cause the dangerous conditions that make artificial turf unplayable.

The Prudent Choice Is Grass. While marketing for artificial turf claims that it provides more playable time than grass, school teams and sports leagues need to use safety criteria that protect all players who may be especially susceptible to heat illness. In fact, grass fields that avoid high risk conditions for heat illness would create a wider margin of safety for everyone.

*Aaron Bernstein, formerly at the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, is now the new Director of the National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“Summer Vacation Is Moving Indoors,” The Atlantic, By Emma Pattee|June 14th, 2023

“Heat Waves Affect Children More Severely,” Scientific American, By Emmarie Huetteman, Kaiser Health News on August 5, 2022

“Heat Levels on Artificial Turf”