For the second time in the past 3 years, research conducted by Dr. Andy McNitt at Penn State found little evidence that outdoor infilled synthetic turf systems pose a significant threat of harboring significant populations of staph bacteria.

New study: UV light and high temperatures do a number on staph

For the second time in the past three years, research conducted by Dr. Andy McNitt, Associate Professor of Soil Science, Penn State University, found little evidence that infilled synthetic turf systems — at least those installed outdoors — pose a significant threat of harboring significant populations of staph bacteria. Not in mid-summer anyway when the sun is brightest and UV levels are high, and not for very long.

His latest research project, funded by the Synthetic Turf Council and the Pennyslvania Turfgrass Council, investigated the survival of Staphylococcus aureus on synthetic surfaces and Kentucky bluegrass under different environmental conditions to evaluate the effectiveness of various control agents applied to the synthetic turf. He conducted the outdoor tests in May, July and August, 2008.

Under non-extreme temperature and very limited light conditions present during the indoor portion of his most recent study, the report said that staph survived on both synthetic and natural turfgrass for multiple days. (All of the surfaces were innoculated with the bacteria except the untreated control, which received no bacteria.)

However, the bacteria do not appear to thrive under these conditions as the numbers of surviving bacteria decrease significantly with time. Staphylococcus aureus survival seems to be greatest on the fibers compared to the crumb rubber infill, the research found.

Commercially available antimicrobial treatments as well as detergent significantly decreased the survival rate of staph present on these surfaces indoors although every experimental unit inoculated tested positive for the presence of S. aureus for the first four hours and a number were still positive nine days after inoculation.

Commercially available detergent and the cationic surfactant SportsClean applied around the time of inoculation resulted in no live bacteria detected after 24 hours, the report said.

When S. aureus is applied to outdoor surfaces under conditions of higher temperatures in the presence of UV light, the bacterial survival rate was much lower.

The report added that it’s difficult to draw conclusions regarding the effectiveness of various treatments in an outdoor environment because the bacteria do not appear to survive very long under those conditions whether treatments were applied or not. Both detergent and fabric softener applied to the surface around the time of bacterial inoculation seemed to reduce S. aureus survival somewhat.

Read the full report here