Artificial Grass News

The Sierra Club opposes artificial grass at Los Gatos schools

PUBLISHED: November 14, 2021 at 6:43 a.m. | UPDATED: November 16, 2021 at 1:06 p.m.

In the Los Gatos Union School District, there is a turf war. That example, there is a controversy among parents, teachers, and local environmental groups regarding whether to install artificial grass on primary school grounds.

At its Nov. 18 meeting, the district board was scheduled to consider the prospect of putting the turf, which is frequently selected as a drought-friendly alternative to natural grass. Artificial grass is not new to local schools: Los Gatos and Saratoga high schools both received Measure E-funded artificial grass in 2015.

The issue comes only weeks after the City of Millbrae imposed a temporary moratorium on building artificial turf, citing environmental concerns that may outweigh drought mitigation.

The Audubon Society and the Sierra Club both oppose the use of artificial turf on primary school campuses. According to Gladwyn d’Souza, conservation committee chair for the Sierra Club’s Loma Prieta Chapter, the environmental advocacy group became engaged when a parent in the district contacted out to ask whether the club had a position on the problem.

“Our opinion is that the contentious grass is both hazardous and damaging inside watersheds like the Los Gatos Creek, so we said we would be pleased to write a letter to the school district,” d’Souza said.

The chapter wrote a letter to the Los Gatos school board protesting the artificial grass. The letter raised environmental concerns, such as the usage of fossil fuels to make plastic turf and the possibility for micro-plastic and gas pollution generated by the artificial grass.

“The consequences of today’s decisions to continue using plastics will echo with our children as they struggle with increasingly catastrophic wildfires, droughts, and flooding,” the letter added.

Opponents also raise health concerns. According to the Sierra Club, synthetic grass grows significantly hotter than real grass, causing children to overheat or even burn. Many artificial grasses also include PFAS, sometimes known as “forever chemicals,” which have been a major source of contention among health and environmental organizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued advice on the potential negative health impacts of artificial grass. Officials warn about potential lead exposure, which affects youngsters under the age of six more severely than older adults.

Because of the possibility of “dust” from the field, the instructions encourage extensive handwashing before eating, even stating that users should change their clothes after coming into touch with artificial grass to avoid contaminating adjacent surfaces.

Susan Tavana, the owner of Los Gatos Pediatric Dentistry, has three children who attend Van Meter Elementary School in Los Gatos. She stated that she is undecided about whether to favor or oppose the artificial grass; her biggest worry, as a health professional and a mother, is the pupils’ safety.
If the district agrees to install the grass, she says it will present some logistical issues for school personnel and volunteers who are in charge of implementing CDC rules. In that situation, she noted, the district would need to provide everyone with the tools they need to ensure that children are not swallowing or breathing anything possibly dangerous.

“As long as the district’s driving philosophy is how to keep the children safe, I’m completely on board,” Tavana added.