As homeowner's, we love our lawns to look nice, lush and green calling it 'curb appeal'. In fact, in some states, many people are opting for Astro Turf, because it's always green and can be washed down. Plus, it saves tremendously on your water bill!
What it doesn't save is your dog's feet. In fact, a study at the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) has indicated that fake grass can heat up to 180 degrees in the summer months. This is scorching for adults, children, and dogs! The study was not even conducted in the hottest summer months ! it ran from August 2006 to March 2006 ! in a city where more than 20 athletic fields, parks, and schools are covered in artificial turf.
'This was a temperature where if you put your hand down on it, you could only hold it for five seconds or so before it would burn,' said Dale Devitt, director of UNLV's Center for Urban Water Conservation. Artificial turf is basically plastic grass filled with rubber that unfortunately holds on to the heat. Some types of astro turf can contain 'crumb rubber' (made from pulverized tires that can contain dangerous chemicals and carcinogens) which has been shown to pose health risks.
In addition to some anecdotal evidence linking artificial turf to cancer in some Seattle soccer goalies, there is growing concern that it may cause some heat burns and even climate changes. Higher temperatures can increase the rate at which toxic chemicals, such as benzothiozole and toluene, arereleased from some artificial fieldsinto the surrounding air. Artificial turf can also raise local temperatures by several degrees.
'A dog's paw is made up of skin, bone, tendons, ligaments, blood supply, and connective tissue and can be very vulnerable to hot surfaces,' said Danny Wilson, CEO of Bark Busters International. 'A dog's paw contains sweat glands that can help a dog perspire and cool them down when they are hot. If a dog's paw is exposed to extreme heat, the paws can become brittle and crack from the dryness.
'Some of our trainers in California and Arizona have reported incidences where a dog's paws have been severely burned requiring professional treatment,' said Wilson. 'Additionally, there have been odor problems because the urine can be washed off but the odor stays behind. Considering the water it takes to hose it down every day, are you really saving money?
There is no debate that synthetic fields are easier to maintain, more durable and can be used in a variety of weather conditions. However, there are other landscaping alternatives that may be safer for both dogs and humans including the use of rock or drought-resistant plants. Our advice? Research your options carefully.