Montreal public health officials say a review of the potential health risks of synthetic turf will be completed by the end of the year.
The news comes as the borough of Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce gave the green light to plans for a new artificial turf soccer pitch at Mackenzie-King park less than 24 hours ago. Residents who learned of the planned review wonder if the borough knew before Tuesday night’s borough council meeting when borough councillors approved the plan following a heated debate.
“Wouldn’t it be reasonable to simply suspend this project until we have these recommendations from the direction de la santé publique?” said resident Line Bonneau, who’s been leading the fight against the artificial turf.
For months the borough weighed the pros and cons of converting the soccer pitch at Mackenzie-King park from grass to artificial turf. Residents who support the plan say there isn’t enough space to play soccer at Martin Luther King Jr. The park less is than three kilometres away, which has had synthetic turf for years.
“We cannot play in the Martin Luther King soccer field because there are a lot of people and they don’t allow us to play,” noted 13-year-old Wassim Sahi who says, even when he tries to use fields at private institutions with his friends, they can’t.
According to the borough, converting grass to synthetic material at that park will add 90 hours of playing time per week for users.
Borough mayor Gracia Kasoki Katahwa has argued that they had to find a balance between meeting the needs of kids who have few places to play and environmental safeguards, and that they opted for artificial turf based on the recommendations from Montreal Public Health that they had available.
Those guidelines are from 2014.
Katahwa acknowledges that there are some health risks but explained, “(from) what I saw in those documents, it’s a lesser risk than the benefit of having people moving and being active.”
Borough officials haven’t said if they knew about plans to revise recommendations, but in a statement to Global News wrote, “the Ville de Montréal is closely monitoring the evolution of public health recommendations concerning synthetic turf and will adapt its practices to the latest if necessary.”