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“And I can’t even find any reason to disinfect an outdoor field, ever.” Andrew McNitt Ph.D. Penn State.

There comes a time in life when you must question what you read.  When Andrew McNitt a noted Turf Scientist from Penn State University, a supposed world-class expert with a Ph.D. in Soil Science, suddenly becomes a medical expert and speaks about studies about MRSA and artificial turf and how there is no danger to athletes, it’s time to take a closer look at the possible reasons behind some of his beliefs.

I’m not a fan of someone who takes common sense and throws it out the window.  I am not a fan of a person who was a beneficial recipient from funding from FieldTurf, yeah that company which also denies Staph and MRSA health issues with artificial turf.

Artificial Turf Manufacturers are Acting Like Big Tobacco, Profits Over the Safety of Athletes

Both Penn State University and FieldTurf established the Joint Center for Sports Surface Research. Mr. McNitt, why would you advise against safety precautions that could help prevent Staph or MRSA infections on individuals and place the focus of the health issues on the tired old argument that the locker room is the problem?

Andrew McNitt Might Have a Ph.D. in Soil Sciences but Lacks a Medical Degree

According to Andrew McNitt’s own Penn State Biography, he consults for

-NFL GroundsKeepers

-Serves on several committees at the League Level.  League Level I assume is the NFL.

-Principle owner of A McNitt & SerenSoil Testing where he highlights such works as

Dr. Andy McNitt started A. McNitt Co. in 1997.  The soil physical properties lab specializes in turfgrass rootzone design and testing for golf courses and athletic field projects and has been the lab of choice for many notable projects including PGA Tour golf courses, Major and Minor League ballparks, and NFL practice and game facilities. 

-Is a Professor of Soil Sciences-Turfgrass at Penn State University since 2011, with a career at Penn State going back 30 years.

Before MRSA You First Must Acquire Staph-S.aureus

The arguments raised by Andrew McNitt and artificial turf manufacturers about MRSA not being present in or on artificial turf fields really could be true because first, you need Staph, which turns into MRSA.  See how that works, switch a word to the less frightful one and now you can say that you have no problems when in fact you have problems everywhere on every artificial turf field.

From the medical experts, specifically the CDC of Atlanta, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you need one of five things to happen to increase your chances of acquiring S. aureus (Staph). Well, artificial turf has all five things.  When does MRSA appear? Nobody knows when or why. The CDC highly recommends over and over to avoid sharing towels amongst individuals.  To everyone who plays on artificial turf, you are playing on a giant shared towel.

MRSA description from Internet Link

SportsField Management Article

Over the last few years, I have questioned some of Mr. McNitt’s studies and really questioned artificial turf manufacturers sales practices about the deflection of health concerns about artificial turf.  It seems that in the game of artificial turf sales, those who have the deepest pockets try to form the standard for all others to believe.  When I read an article from SportsField Management recently, August 29th, 2016 by author Mary Sprecher titled, Investigating the Interaction between MRSA and Athletic Fields I had to ask myself who wrote the article? If you want to know why it took me so long to read the article, well the article hasn’t ranked very well in Search until recently.

This article is an embarrassment to journalism.  Author, Mary Sprecher, cites no studies, no research, and simply lets Mr. McNitt ramble on about how artificial turf has been tested every possible way and MRSA is absent in every single case, but what about Staph?  So let’s back up and ask what studies is Mr. McNitt talking about?

1The first claim by Andrew McNitt is MRSA won’t Survive or Grow on Synthetic Turf

“And the findings, he says, have been consistent: MRSA won’t survive, much less grow, on synthetic fields, even in big stadiums that get a lot of use.”  How funny, since Mr. McNitt easily cultured S. aureus (Staph) on synthetic turf for a study.

Evaluation of the Efficacy of Ultraviolet-C Light

2The second claim by Andrew McNitt is that “it (MRSA) doesn’t like to live on inanimate objects. That includes synthetic fields.

Another study conducted by Penn State-Center for Turfgrass Sciences studied S. aureus (Staph) on Synthetic Turf.

Survival of Staphylococcus aureus on Synthetic Turf

  • Neely, A.N. and M.P. Maley. 2000. Survival of Enterococci and Staphylococci on hospital fabrics and plastic. J Clin Micro 38: 724-726.

In a study examining the survival of bacteria on various synthetic surfaces including polyethylene, S. aureus was able to survive for relatively long periods of time (22 to 40 days) under ideal conditions (Neely and Maley, 2000).

3Third statement by Andrew McNitt,  “We found a little bacteria or fungus here and there,” he notes. “But we didn’t find MRSA.”

The above-referenced statement is about a study done on 20 artificial fields around Pennsylvania.  There is no referenced study by the author Mary Sprecher in her article. McNitt admits a “little” bacteria was found.  Bacteria can also be known as Staph.  But we need to look at this whole 20 field study a little closer and I have already done that and compared the study to one done by Weber State University.  The results are quite shocking.

ARE SYNTHETIC TURF FIELDS FULL OF BACTERIAL PATHOGENS LIKE STAPH?

Demonstrating the Big Sky Study
What really lives in the turf.

4Fourth statement by Andrew McNitt, The best disinfectant of all, says McNitt, was coming from above – and it was free. “Sunlight is a fantastic disinfectant for bacteria,” he explains. 

According to Shaw Sportexe, one of the largest manufacturers of artificial turf, each field contains approximately 50-70 million artificial
blades of “grass.” So bacteria have a lot of places the sun can’t touch.

5th-McNitt says the NFL has outlawed anti-microbial products on fields.

“The NFL has outlawed the use of anti-microbial products on fields,” McNitt notes. “They studied it and came to the conclusion there is no reason to apply anything.”

Mr. McNitt, is the reason for the “outlaw” a result of your recommendation to ban something that could be helpful in killing harmful bacteria that would draw a negative response to artificial turf?  Negative press means fewer sales and fewer kids playing the sport. Where is this study you cite by the NFL?

6thIndoor Synthetic Turf Fields

In fact, McNitt notes, researchers were able to grow MRSA on indoor synthetic fields, “but only if the temperature was at least 74 degrees, with really high humidity, and it was pitch black.” And those, he notes, “are just not the conditions you find in reality.”

Mr. McNitt, how do you explain this report by Medical Doctors?

Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus survival on artificial turf substrates.

Seems like these researchers had no problem keeping MRSA alive from one week to as long as a month.  My own opinion is if you have bodily fluids from so many individuals in a concentrated area, you have a serious health problem on your hands. Trust me on this, I get calls all the time from concerned parents wanting to know if their child is at risk.

Center for Turfgrass Science Penn State University-All Fact Sheets

It is embarrassing when a world-class institute has links to Fact Sheets going to pages that don’t exist. You get taken to the STMA.org Page Not Found Department a code 404. For the sake of providing a proper article that search engines like, I am not linking to these pages.

  1. A Guide to Synthetic and Natural Turfgrass for Sports Fields This was the URL (http://www.stma.org/_Files/_Items/STMA-MR-TAB5-2212/Docs/STMA%20SyntheticTurfGuideHIpg1) 
  2. A review of the potential Health and Safety Risks from Synthetic Turf Fields Containing Crumb Rubber Infill  (http://www.stma.org/_files/_items/stma-mr-tab1-2637/docs/new%252520york%252520city%252520turf_report_05-08)
  3. Suggested Equipment List (http://www.stma.org/_files/_items/stma-mr-tab1-1492/docs/synthetic%2520bulletin3%2520in-house%2520contr)

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences

I reached out to Dean Richard Roush for a comment and received no response.

SportsField Management Author Mary Sprecher “Now it’s Sports Destination Management”

Mary Sprecher-Author of the Article in Question, no response when I reached out for comment.

I think you get my point.  The current reports to the public by Mr. McNitt’s is not what is happening in the real world. Day after day, Google Alerts, provides updated information on Staph and MRSA reports.  Jump on Twitter and you will see the kids talking about Staph and MRSA.  The experts like Mr. McNitt hold to the argument that artificial turf does not “grow” MRSA.  But please explain to me and every parent and athlete who steps foot on artificial turf where do all the bodily fluids go?  One cut or abrasion and that is all that is required to start the path of Staph to a possible MRSA infection.

Mike Woelfel

References:

“About.” A. McNitt & SerenSoil Testing, 2009, www.turfsoiltesting.com/about-us.html. Accessed 15 May 2019.

“Andrew S. McNitt.” Psu.Edu, 2010, www.personal.psu.edu/asm4/. Accessed 15 May 2019.

“MRSA Infection – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic,  , 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mrsa/symptoms-causes/syc-20375336. Accessed 15 May 2019.

“Mary Helen Sprecher | Sports Destination Management.” Sportsdestinations.Com, 2015, www.sportsdestinations.com/sdm-contributor/mary-helen-sprecher-4404?page=70. Accessed 15 May 2019.

“Survival of Staphylococcus Aureus on Synthetic Turf.” Penn State Extension, 21 Apr. 2019, extension.psu.edu/survival-of-staphylococcus-aureus-on-synthetic-turf. Accessed 15 May 2019.

‌Bass, Jason, and David Hintze. “Skyline -The Big Sky Undergraduate Journal Volume 1 | Issue 1 Article 1 8-19-2013 Part of the Diseases Commons, Medical Sciences Commons, and the Microbiology Commons Recommended Citation Bass.” Skyline -The Big Sky Undergraduate Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, 2013, sportsturfnw.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Bass-paper-in-big-sky-journal.pdf. Accessed 11 May 2019.