Two studies looking at bacterial pathogens come up with two completely different results. One study has results that smell like roses and the other study proves that possible deadly bacterial pathogens do exist on synthetic turf fields. The study of science needs to be objective. To the readers of this article, you can decide which study is more realistic.
Study #1-Penn State 2008 “A survey of microbial populations in infilled synthetic turf fields”
Study#2-Weber State University 2013 “Determination of Microbial Populations in a Synthetic Turf System”
Penn State Study
The 2008 Penn State study by McNitt, A.S., D. Petrunak, D. and T Serensits T., “A survey of microbial populations in infilled synthetic turf fields”, has been the one and only source used by artificial turf manufacturers and industry organizations to discredit and scoff at the idea that artificial turf and bacterial pathogens like Staph and MRSA have a dangerous connection. This “Scientific Study” is used as a reference over and over by sales professionals, marketing professionals and everyone in between in telling the world to quit worrying about Staph infections because artificial turf is safe from harmful microorganisms, even though common sense tells us otherwise.
The Synthetic Turf Council Blames Poor Hygiene as a Cause for Staph and MRSA
The Synthetic Turf Council who is the self-appointed voice of the industry even discredits the dangers of Staph and MRSA and cites the Penn State study and puts the blame on people with poor hygiene, that’s right, dirty people.
From the Synthetic Turf Council’s FAQ Page
Q: Are athletes playing on a synthetic turf more susceptible to MRSA/staph infections?
MRSA and other staph infections strike due to poor hygiene, regardless of the type of playing surface. That’s because it is spread by people in close contact with each other, like athletic team members, healthcare providers and patients, children in day care centers, military recruits, firefighters, and many other groups. Recent studies are in agreement. A California EPA report dated July 2009 stated: “it is unlikely that the new generation of artificial turf is itself a source of MRSA.”
A Penn State University study released in January 2009 found there was no difference in survival rates of staph on natural grass and synthetic turf surfaces. In addition, it stated that synthetic turf is not a hospitable environment for the microbial activity such as staph. The issue goes beyond abrasions since athletes can get cuts on any playing field – from the most well-manicured or dirt-compacted natural grass to state-of-the-art synthetic turf fields that are regularly irrigated and cleaned.
Weber State University Study on Bacterial Pathogens
It so happens that a much more comprehensive research study was published in 2013 by Weber State University, “Determination of Microbial Populations in a Synthetic Turf System” and the results of this research will make it clear that the Penn State study and heavily cited by turf manufacturers such as FieldTurf, needs looking at for the study’s findings and conclusions. How this research study went unnoticed is hard to understand but now that I am aware of it, thanks to the (Rockwood Turf FB page) I want to share with you the Weber State study findings and the results only reinforce why I promote UVC equipment. UVC equipment does protect athletes against Staph and MRSA but the artificial turf industry ignores the health-related issues of Staph and MRSA.
Jason Bass and David Hintze along with faculty mentor Karen Nakaoka, Ph.D., from Weber State University, compared two synthetic turf fields to test for the presence of dangerous bacterial pathogens (Staph). The research was to find if an older field has increased numbers of harmful pathogens versus a new artificial field. The Weber State study included artificial turf fields a year old and a field six years old.
Comparison Of The Two Studies
The Weber State study points out some shortcomings of the Penn State study. These shortcomings include why the Penn State study failed to acknowledge the dangers or presence of Staph on artificial turf fields. The Weber State study is very technical in nature when reading. The technical aspect of a study is a result of using multiple points of study.
Who Funded the Studies?
Penn State study-Conducted at the SSRC, joint venture between FieldTurf and Penn State. Penn State Sports Surface Research Center (SSRC)
Weber State-Funded by Weber State and Weber State Microbial Department
Sample Size Used in The Infill Material Study
Penn State-.075 Grams (Why such a small sample?)
Weber State-10 Grams (The sample size used by Weber State was more than ten times the sample size Penn State used in their study)
Collection Time Frame of Samples
Penn State-Just says between June 1 and June 15th, all of 15 days.
Weber State-The collection times were consistent and conducted once a week for 14 weeks.
Location of Samples
Penn State-samples were taken from “High Use” and “Low Use” areas, very general.
Weber State-1) Sideline, 2) 50 Yard Line and 3) end of the field. The same three locations Weber State used in their testing also included testing both new and old fields.
Time of Study
Penn State-Height of Summer when field temperatures were at the peak.
Weber State-Height of the Actual Football Season when the fields were in use.
Technical Issues of Reasons Why the Penn State Study Did Not Find Pathogens (Staph)
Penn State-Shortened agitation times for the samples (shortened time means less chance for full discovery of Pathogens, technical please read study)
Penn State-Failed to Isolate S. Aureus (Staph) on samples. Reading the full study will help you understand the technical section as to Penn State’s lack of discovery.
Results-Highlights Taken Directly from Studies
Penn State-“Staphylococcus aureus bacterium was not found on any of the playing surfaces.”
Weber State-“These results indicate that infill material can serve as a potential source for
the spread of bacterial pathogens among athletes and that these organisms seem to
accumulate over time posing a greater exposure risk if proper cleaning is not
“A Survey of Microbial Populations in Infilled Synthetic Turf Fields (Center for Sports Surface Research).” Center for Sports Surface Research (Penn State University), 2019, plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/research/microbial/microbial. Accessed 11 May 2019.
—. Center for Sports Surface Research (Penn State University), 2019, plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/research/microbial. Accessed 11 May 2019.
“Frequently Asked Questions – Synthetic Turf Council.” Syntheticturfcouncil.Org, 2019, www.syntheticturfcouncil.org/page/FAQs. Accessed 11 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.
Woelfel, Mike. “‘Scientific Studies’ and Artificial Turf-B.S At Its Finest.” Sports Turf Northwest, 6 May 2019, sportsturfnw.com/scientific-studies-and-artificial-turf-b-s-at-its-finest/. Accessed 11 May 2019.