Bacteria in Artificial Turf

Ever played a sport on a synthetic turf field? These sporting staples can make for an incredible playing field, but they can also harbor some nasty bacteria. On average, the lifespan of a turf playing field is about 8 years; factors that influence this lifespan include whether the turf is indoors or outdoors and how it’s maintained.

Turf fields are designed to look like grass and infilled with rubber granules. Maintaining turf fields is as much an art as a science, with careful grooming of the infill, and often use of commercial biocides. Field turf can provide many benefits, such as a consistent playing surface in all weather, but it’s also difficult to fully clean. In general, outdoor turf contains less bacteria than indoor surfaces, because the elements and UV rays can breakdown surface bacteria.

A 2013 study out of Webber State University titled “Determination of Microbial Populations of Synthetic Turf Systems” found that in a 14-week sampling period through late summer and fall of football season, a six-year-old turf system had as many as a 104 increase in microbial populations to year old turf. The highest bacterial counts for both one-year-old and six-year-old turf were found at the sidelines. Salt-tolerant bacteria were found in high numbers, indication potential staphylococci (Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis are both commonly found on human skin but can cause opportunistic infections under the right conditions. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is found on approximately 3% of people within the general population, but can cause severe illnesses when introduced through abrasions, broken skin, or even through contact with contaminated water bottles or equipment).

EHSI has industrial hygienists on staff with the microbiological training necessary to assess synthetic turf bacteria (typically through taking samples of infill). There are different types of tests that can be performed based upon the needs of the client. In addition to baseline testing of field turf to determine bacterial load, if a client is using a commercial biocide to regulate their bacterial growth, EHSI can test before and after application to measure effectiveness of the protocol. EHSI can also review any biocides, making certain the chemicals applied are not harmful to the planet or users.