The Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) school board has voted to replace the turf on the Sir Francis Drake football field due to health concerns. After 12 years of playing on the old turf, which was made of ground up car tires, many parents voiced their opinions on the health risks and a vote was held, resulting in a non-toxic cork infill to replace the old turf. The turf will be replaced this summer.
The health issues of the old turf were brought up in January, when concerned parents began emailing the district board about the potential risks of the turf. The turf that was previously put into the field in 2008 was due to be replaced, and parents took action to ensure that the new turf would not be harmful to athletes. There was speculation, without profound results from the annual U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspections, that the ground up car tire particles had the potential to trap heat and raise the temperatures on the field by up to 20 degrees, and that the turf holds bacteria which can be transferred into athletes and cause infections if they scrape their skin on the turf. This, along with the overall uncertainty over the potentially carcinogenic properties of the turf material, prompted many Drake parents to take action.
Drake parent Larry Smith voiced his opinions on the matter in an email to the TUHSD Board. Smith spoke about the “Precautionary Principle” approach that they should be taking, meaning that unless they are certain of the safety the turf, they shouldn’t be using it.
“In my view, given the uncertainty on this issue…and the use of the ‘Precautionary Principle,’ I would strongly advocate for a cork field as it just isn’t worth taking the chance on the potentially dangerous particles,” he said.
Marin parent Carolyn Gencarella also expressed her concern in an email to the board, referencing how Tam dealt with a similar solution. “It appears [that] the Tam field was replaced with a more environmentally friendly option as a result of community foundation financial support,” she said. “Please allow all schools in the Tam District the same opportunity to come together with its local foundation to offer support.”
Drake parent Heather Neely put it simply. “We should not be hedging on the health of the next generation.”
The operation will be funded by the district this summer.