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The Harmful Effects of Artificial Turf

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The Harmful Effects of Artificial Turf

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Artificial turf is a low-maintenance option for keeping playing fields green and readily available for use, especially in hot, wet climates. But work by Professor CY Jim is adding to the evidence that artificial turf can be hazardous to both health and the environment.

Can artificial turf get hot enough to fry an egg on? Chair Professor of Geography CY Jim decided to test that out during his research on the heat effects of artificial turf.

Professor Jim spent two summers taking detailed measurements on artificial and natural turfs to compare their solar and terrestrial radiation and heat regimes at different times of the day and at different heights. His results were shocking. When air temperature reached 35 degrees Celsius, the surface of artificial turf spiked to close to 70 degrees – compared with 38 degrees for natural turf. Even at 50 centimetres above ground, the temperature at the artificial turf site remained higher although the difference was less dramatic.

“The very hot artificial surface can heat up human bodies by infrared radiation, conduction and convection,” he said. “It’s not healthy to the athletes playing on such fields because there’s a danger of heat stroke. And it’s particularly harmful to children who are short, which means a larger proportion of their body would be exposed to such high temperature. As children’s heat-regulation physiology is less able to cool their bodies, it means a double jeopardy to their health.

“I actually tried to cook an egg on the artificial turf,” he continued. “It was pretty well-cooked I must say.”

Professor C.Y. Jim

"It’s not healthy to the athletes playing on such fields because there’s a danger of heat stroke. And it’s particularly harmful to children who are short, which means a larger proportion of their body would be exposed to such high temperature."

Professor C.Y. Jim

The full version of this article was originally published in Bulletin. Please click here to view this HKU publication.

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