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Thursday, June 15, 2023

Major Scientific review of Synthetic Turf environmental and health impacts released by NSW Chief Scientist

NSW CSE synthetic turf report a lot to chew over
A major review and report on current scientific assessment of synthetic turf was published by the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer. This is of global significance. 

The NSW government released the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer Review report on synthetic turf on Friday 9 June 2023. The actual report is 77 pages but includes 19 appendices, bringing the document up to 539 pages. The Review final Report was ready for publication on 13 October 2022, but release was delayed as the document was made Cabinet-in-Confidence and its release delayed due to the NSW election and change of government

The Review’s analysis and insights focussed on four key questions:

  •  What do we know about synthetic turf materials and their use in NSW?

  •  What are the trends and initiatives and their applicability to NSW?

  •  What are the potential health impacts of synthetic turf?

  •  What are the potential environmental and ecological impacts of synthetic turf?

Embedded within the report are 19 appendices containing science based assessments of synthetic turf issues, including: health issues, air pollution and exposure, Odorant monitoring, heat impacts and thermal comfort, heat related health risks, Contaminants and the environment, environmental plastics and microplastics, hydrology, PFAS, soil health, Impact of artificial lights at night, bushfire risk, and Life cycle analysis, and natural turf sporting surfaces.

Much of the report and the science assessments, the key findings and recommendations, have great relevance for Victoria and other states, both for the State Governments and Municipal Councils.

Many of the commissioned experts, from diverse research areas, identified a singular major knowledge gap - that chemical constituents of synthetic turf components, and their associated human and environmental health impacts, are not fully known. (9.1 page 73)

Key insight in the report executive summary questioned the long term sustainability of synthetic turf sporting surfaces given changing climatic conditions due to global warming::

"Overall, it is not clear whether expectations about the longevity and carrying capacity of synthetic fields can be met under Australian climatic conditions, potentially influencing decisions about installation and cost-benefit considerations"

The review also proposed that increased performance of natural turf surfaces may be able to meet the demand for use:

"Best practice guidelines for improving the performance of natural turf have been developed in NSW.  If applied to installation and ongoing management of natural turf sporting fields, these practices may allow increased performance of natural turf fields to meet demand"