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The Biden administration’s “America the Beautiful” initiative aims to conserve at least 30% of lands and oceans by 2030 in an effort to bolster the economy and “tackle the climate and nature crises” while addressing “inequitable access to the outdoors.”

But the plan may not be all it’s cracked up to be. 

A closer look by investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker reveals the nationwide “conservation” effort includes subsidies for chemical grass playgrounds that contain a mix of harmful substances —  including heavy metals and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

Thacker points out that in 2021, the National Park Service announced it will use grants — which contribute to Biden’s “America the Beautiful” initiative — to install artificial turf in America’s parks. 

Most of the projects are “in low-income neighborhoods which offer little outdoor recreation,” Thacker said. 

A deeper dive by Thacker shows two projects involved in installing petrochemical grass in playgrounds were funded using federal offshore oil and gas royalties. 

“In other words, money from oil and gas companies is being used to grow petrochemical grass and then dump it on playgrounds in poor neighborhoods,” Thacker said. 

Artificial grass is hardly a substitute for real grass, which has myriad benefits including the ability to reduce pollution, improve wellness and lower stress. 

Synthetic grass, on the other hand, is linked to multiple health problems including cancer. 

According to The Intercept

“The rubber, which is used in huge amounts (some 40,000 tires are shredded to cover a single artificial turf field), contains heavy metals and other chemicals shown to pose serious health risks. 

Environmental groups have taken issue with the health risks of turf. And the Children’s Environmental Health Center of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai deemed the fake grass so dangerous it called for a moratorium on new artificial fields in 2017.”

The Intercept also cited two reports from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry on the recycled rubber used in the artificial grass. 

The analyses found “dozens of metals and volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds in the black rubber specks. Several of these compounds — including cadmium, benzene, nickel, chromium, and arsenic — are known carcinogens.”