Artificial grass has become a popular alternative in recent years to natural grass in many suburban lawns, sports fields and playgrounds. Artificial grass is relatively simple to maintain because it doesn't require constant lawn care to keep it looking trimmed and clean. However, there are several disadvantages to artificial grass that could deter people from replacing their natural lawns. Artificial grass is expensive; has the potential to cause property damage because of flooding; may be a health hazard because of heat, chemicals, and bacteria; and could cause damage to the environment.
Artificial grass may be cheaper in the long run as the owners of the lawn don't have to pay for the upkeep of the grass, but the upfront cost for artificial grass can be expensive. Owners have to pay for the artificial turf, an infill, a filler to place beneath the artificial turf, and equipment for installation. If owners use an installation company to install the artificial grass, they must also pay for the cost of labour.
There is the potential for flooding to occur on artificial grass without grass, dirt and trees to soak up rainwater. Especially in urban areas with lots of concrete and few natural drainage systems in place, an excess build-up of rainwater can cause gardens to drown and may cause flooding damage to the foundation of homes. Since chemicals are used in the construction of artificial grass, floods may contaminate drinking water or other water reservoirs.
The synthetic materials used to create artificial grass absorb heat from the atmosphere. A study conducted by Brigham Young University found that synthetic turf used in football fields was 2.78 degrees C hotter than asphalt. During the summer artificial grass often becomes too hot to play on and becomes uncomfortable for children and pets.
Artificial grass has been found to contain harmful chemicals such as lead, zinc and arsenic. Lead, which is linked to cases of mental retardation and stunted growth, can be found in the nylon grass blades, which can turn into dust in the atmosphere when stirred and may be breathed into the lungs. According to a 2007 report from Environmental and Human Health Inc., the rubber granules that are used as infill in artificial grass to replace dirt may contain carcinogenic chemicals that can irritate the eyes and skin.
Animal faeces, sweat and blood could remain on unwashed artificial grass for prolonged periods of time since there is no built-in system of waste disposal as seen in natural soil. A study conducted in 1999 by doctors at Shriners Hospital for Children found that bacteria such as staphylococci can survive up to three months on polythene plastic in a hospital setting. Polythene plastic is commonly used to create artificial grass blades.
Artificial grass does not contain an environment for organisms commonly found in natural grass to survive. Unlike natural grass, artificial grass does not take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. According to an article by Lindsay Barton on MomsTeam.com, when installed, artificial grass kills good organisms found in the soil, so without intensive soil treatment natural grass cannot regrow in that area for several years even if the artificial grass is removed.