Turf War Brewing Over Carmel Valley Park's Future

A concerned parent and neurologist says the turf planned for Ocean Air Park is a health risk

A turf war is brewing at a Carmel Valley park as parents fight a plan to replace grass with synthetic turf.

In June, the Carmel Valley Recreation Council and Community Planning Board overwhelmingly approved drought-friendly turf for Ocean Air Park on Fairport Way.

For young Simon Engel, the park is his field of dreams.

“Sometimes I’ll play catch with my dad. Sometimes I’ll have soccer practice,” he said.

But for his mother, Emily Engel, the field's potential future is frightening. Engel, who works as a neurologist, told NBC 7 Wednesday that the turf poses a long-term health risk.

“There has been evidence artificial turf contains lead and other toxic components that have been associated with lymphoma and neurological problems,” she said.

The city of San Diego disputed her claim, issuing this response Wednesday:

"All components of the synthetic turf system shall meet or exceed relevant federal, state and local health requirements. Manufacturers shall be required to fully disclose all materials used in the manufacture of the synthetic turf system and provide complete information on all potentially toxic constituents."

Engel told NBC 7 science does not support the safety of artificial turf. In her online petition, which has been signed by about 180 people, she cites turf health hazards documented by several health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC notes that as turf ages and weathers, lead is released in dust that can be ingested or inhaled, increasing the risk for harmful exposure.

The San Diego City Council still has to approve the turf plan, possibly this fall. If they do, the turf could be rolled out at Ocean Air and Carmel Valley Park sometime in 2019.

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