I heard yesterday that there was supposed to be temperatures in the mid-eighties in Ludington, so I packed my wall thermometer, my digital infrared thermometer, and an egg this afternoon and went to Oriole Field, which had an artificial turf surface installed these last two months in replacing the natural grass field that has always been there.  Here is what it looks like on approach:

The meteorologists altered their forecast downward, as my wall thermometer indicated on the way out before I put it in the car, it was 77 degrees, one better than what they said it would be for today.  Conducting my experiment wouldn't be so bad after all with the more moderate temperature, I figured.  Thursday looks like a scorcher, however, so I may be back:

The experiment I mention was to find out the temperatures at field level and compare it with what I recorded in other environments.  Using my infrared thermometer on natural grass exposed to full, direct sunlight, I was getting a fairly regular reading of 86-88 degrees.  On some concrete exposed to full sunlight, readings were between 104-108 degrees.  I would hold the thermometer a couple of inches above the surface.  Temperatures in the shady areas under the trees at Oriole Field were comfortably under 80 degrees, there was also a cool breeze blowing through.  I put my wall thermometer on the black section of Astroturf on the side of the field, next to my egg I had gotten from my refrigerator.

After only a couple of minutes, the wall thermometer was getting uncomfortably close to its upper limit, and since I didn't want it to explode, I took it off the turf and walked it back to the car I had parked under a shade tree.  I had it in my enclosed car for about another hour, before I would check it again, worried that it may have gotten too hot inside the car, but it had actually went down to 86 degrees.  I then started taking readings of the artificial turf surface in the same manner as before, and at the sidelines where I had the other thermometer, my infrared one caught the temperature of 122 degrees.  

I had suspected the black colored grass would be the hottest, but I had an uncomfortably hot walk across the field and generally it was hotter as you got closer to the center of the field and hottest where the crumb rubber was thicker in the fake grass.  For instance, here's a reading of 129.5 degrees in the orange 'grass':

I actually had one reading of 130.2 degrees when I didn't have my camera out.  What does 130-degree heat feel like? It’s a bit like “walking into an oven,” Death Valley ranger Brandi Stewart tells SFGate’s Amy Graff.  Heat stroke can be suffered by someone operating in such conditions in under ten minutes, even otherwise healthy kids.  If you've ever walked barefoot on concrete or asphalt on a hot day and had to get off it immediately, then consider how a child's arms, legs, or face would feel on a surface that's about thirty degrees warmer.

And that egg you saw earlier, what was I doing with that?  Unlike the wall thermometer, I left it on the black 'grass' surface for over an hour, and at the end of my stay at Oriole Field I cracked it open over the Oriole's bell and here's what it looked like:

It actually tasted pretty good, definitely not overcooked at that point.  It made me wonder what might happen to a kid when they're stretching and doing sit-ups on Oriole Field during warm days, and thought about an older commercial dealing with chemicals other than crumb rubber and crystallized silica:

We should all be pretty glad that the teams do not practice regularly on Sundays, but will this environment be healthy for our kids and grandkids when days like Thursday come around and they will have to deal with practicing or playing on a field with temperatures of 140 degrees or more?

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Oh my, interesting and colorful reporting, X!  And to wonder how the heat affects the toxins?

Thanks for asking.  When the temps get to 77 (25 Celsius) and above, the tires release a significant portion of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) vapors and this recent study of high temperature effects on crumb rubber concluded:

"The literature and the present study show that crumb contains PAHs and heavy metals. Fine dust may become airborne and leachate may filter into the soil. The magnitude of human exposure depends on chemicals of
concern concentration in field, exposure parameters describing human physiology (e.g. dermal contact, body weight) and population-specific parameters describing exposure behaviour (exposure frequency, duration). Randomly ingested crumb may release these compounds in
the digestive tract. Most of all, evaporation at high temperatures may expose users of sports grounds, who are often children between 5 and 13 years of age, in a very sensitive phase of growth, to many of these toxic compounds.
The results of the present study demonstrate that PAHs are
continuously released from rubber crumb through vaporation. Athletes frequenting grounds with synthetic turf are therefore exposed to chronic toxicity from PAHs. The main conclusion we can draw from this preliminary study, which will be validated by further field
and laboratory research, is that although synthetic turf offers various advantages over natural grass, the quantity of toxic substances it releases when heated does not make it safe for public health. When we extrapolated the data obtained in laboratory, the toxicity equivalent (TEQ) of the different compounds evaporating from the crumb was far from negligible and would contribute substantially to an athlete’s total daily PAH intake. In fact, all rubber crumb samples of this study exceeded the Dlgs."

Thanks again X for answering my question. That study published in the Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology should be (should have been) required reading by every LASD BOARD member, and anyone involved with the decision to pollute our environment by replacing the grass field with recycled rubber artificial turf.

The best part about your articles is that you do your homework. What a genius way to get your points across. Who can argue that these artificial fields do not get overly heated and as any person familiar with chemistry on a basic level knows that heat can greatly affect many chemicals making them more dangerous in the process. Excellent work X. Huh Oh! I drove by the stadium  and saw some new additions to the field decorations which messages the childish minds who shoved this chemical soup up our tax paying arsses.

I always have to do my homework when dealing with local school issues or else they will give me a failing or incomplete grade.  On a slightly more serious vein, my math and science background has me naturally looking at establishing proofs and conducting experiments to ascertain truths.  This gives me a little bit of an advantage over other reporters in the area (who typically take what they are told by local officials at face value without looking any farther into it) and it makes up for any deficiencies I may have in my compositions-- such as using four syllable words when smaller ones would suffice.  

Yesterday was the first day of school, and it was a hot day here in Ludington, with temperatures approaching 90 degrees.  I took a temperature reading at Oriole Field at about 2:40 PM, and recorded readings of 120 degrees on the Astroturf surface.  Fortunately, the wind was present or else it could have gotten up to 150 degrees, but it would still be uncomfortable and unsafe to practice on, given the humidity present.  And of course, it was practiced on by the football team later that afternoon.  I am going to talk with the school about setting temperature limits for these practice sessions, when the crumb rubber gets over 130 degrees, that field has an unhealthy smell to it, courtesy of the volatile organic compounds, many carcinogenic in the rubber escaping as gas.  

The JV team was practicing on the grass field just east of the middle school, the soccer team was practicing across the street from them on the grass field, the temperature there would have been much more bearable, under 90 degrees.  

Maybe those coaches who were not using the turf did some more pondering on using the astro turf and how it could affect the players.


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