Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley


Toxic-Plastifying Planet, One Elementary School Playground At A Time

The short of it: EB plans to install at least 15 tons of toxic plastics and Prop 65 Silica Sand in the playground, for a total cost of around $350,000. The risk to small children? Death, cancer, pneumonitis, lung fibrosis, through Prop 65 products, silicosis, or suberosis. That “Artificial Turf”, considering the chosen technology, pulverulent cork, will have to be torn down within five years. EB doesn’t plan to treat the toxic effluents (contrarily to usage); according to “turf team” the runoff of herbicides, biocides, fire retardants, disinfectants and other deleterious chemicals will go straight into the Bay.


Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley informed parents it was planning to install “Artificial Turf” on its playground. 7,500 square feet of it. We were explicitly told, repeatedly, that would be done so that some boys could play soccer.

This particular Artificial Turf consists of:

1) plastic grass blades coated with URETHANE, a Prop. 65 product (that is, “known to the state of California to cause cancer”). There would be several tons of it.

2) artificial soil made mostly of SILICA SAND, another Prop. 65 product. Once breathed in, tiny silica sand can’t be expelled and causes inflammation, alveolitis, pneumonitis, fibrosis and silicosis; it is made of tiny balls of SiO2, and associated dust. It’s an irreversible disease. There would be TEN TONS of it. To prevent the intrusion of algae, moss, plants, the silica sand is treated with BIOCIDES (life killers) such as glyphosate (“Roundup”), triclosan, “Bioban” (trade secret poison), etc…

3) mixed with the silica sand would be cork. Those cork pellets would start as half a millimeter across, and then would shatter, under impact, in smaller pieces. CORK DUST causes a disease called “SUBEROSIS”. The mechanism for suberosis is quadruple: cork itself, lodged in the lungs, is hard to expel, like silica sand. Cork gets also covered by a mold specific to cork, which by itself, once in the contact with the lung tissue, causes inflammation, alveolitis, pneumonitis, fibrosis (just as the cork itself and the silica sand). Cork is also endowed with two specific bacteria, with the same effect.

4) A thick pad below the whole artificial grass and soil is made of recycled tire crumbs and polyethylene pellets. It acts as a shock pad. As, under impacts, the sand compactifies, huge accelerations of 200 times gravity, or more, have been recorded (more than 200 gs; natural grass doesn’t go over 115 gs, and is typically around 60 gs). Putting a thick layer of styrofoam like material, 2 inches thick, or more, is supposed to reduce impact forces, hence the crumb rubber pad.

Why does EB plan to use cork? Because the previously used technology for Artificial Turf, “crumb rubber”, also known as ELT (End of Life Tires) has come under suspicion of causing various diseases. Climbing gym used crumb rubber, until, after a few years, employees and climbers noticed they suffered breathing difficulty and were coughing black mucus. Recent epidemiological statistics have shown increased cancer risk, especially among soccer goalies. Goalies get closer to the ground.  This is of relevance here, as small children, in an elementary school, are closer to the ground. Cork dust has been shown in pictures to fly into small brown clouds, a few feet high, upon impact of a player.

In the particular technology proposed at EB, biocide laden cork and silica sand dust, would readily fly into the lungs of the little ones.

Tom Bates Athletic Field at Gilman in Berkeley has two Artificial Turf fields, with cork. They were replaced at great cost in 2017-2018… and look already worn out. They are separated from the San Francisco Bay by a decantation zone 300 feet wide, including a catch basin at least 500 feet long. The decantation zone is closed off by an impassable metallic fence. The idea is to catch the toxic chemicals and substances necessary for maintenance of the Artificial Turf, before they can reach the Bay. Access is restricted, upon authorization only. The four other fields at Tom Bates are natural grass, and access is open.  

The cost of the materials that the EB administration has “decided” to install is $150,000. That doesn’t include installation and maintenance. Once those are included, the cost goes above $350,000.

As the cork (density 14% water) flies away, it has to be replenished (tons of the material are stored in the open air at Tom Bates, and were vandalized, spilling their contents). In the end, though, the cork becomes so pulverulent, it becomes extremely toxic. The cork will turn to dust, blowing away… into the rest of the school. Another fraction of the cork is compactified into the silica sand. The cork mixed with the Prop 65 Silica Sand, compactified at the roots of the plastic blades, partially shredded by then as microplastic pollution, cannot be recycled. It can’t be vacuumed. Thus the entire Artificial Turf has to be torn out, and removed, polluting sea or soil. Because of the nature of the products involved and their intimate mix, it cannot be recycled or repurposed. The entire Artificial Turf system will go straight to landfill.

The preceding revelations were made by industry representatives.

How soon will the “cork” field be replaced? Five years. Only five years, because of the increased pulverulence of the cork, which makes it lethal. (By comparison, Crumb Rubber fields can hold twenty years… in theory. In practice, they become hard as concrete within ten years…) This means that the Artificial Turf cost will be $70,000 a year.

All the natural landscaping and trees around the Artificial Turf will have to be removed, as per technical requirement and contract (Artificial Turf exposure to biological plant debris has to be limited).

The environmental cost is considerable. As the Tom Bates Artificial “Cork” Turf field shows, chemical effluents are important and noxious. Worldwide, more than 91% of plastics are not recycled. Several countries including China and now Malaysia, are rejecting plastic waste from the US and France…