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ESF - English Schools Foundation

Ready for play? ESF reopens five artificial turf pitches after its tests show no increased health risks

But lawmaker questions what exactly was examined at the schools and calls for release of results

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 11:17am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 8:19pm

Five schools run by the English Schools Foundation have reopened their artificial turf pitches after tests it commissioned found “no increased health and safety risk associated with use”.

On December 1, the foundation closed the artificial turf pitches at Discovery College, King George V School, South Island School, Sha Tin College and Renaissance College to “allow for detailed safety investigation and testing to be undertaken”, the ESF said in a statement on its website.

School health fears raised over potentially toxic artificial turf

Earlier this month the Post learned the pitches were being tested in light of safety concerns over chemicals exceeding international health standards.

Parents of pupils at the affected schools had demanded answers from the foundation over why they were not informed about the readings for days.

“These tests have now been completed and we are pleased to note that there is no increased health and safety risk associated with use of our pitches,” the statement read.

But several parents said they were not told of the closings or reopenings.

Chemicals in ESF pitches may be caused by air pollution, says artificial turf expert Eric Harrison

A parent with a year 12 son at Sha Tin College said he did not receive any notice via email or mail from the school. He said his son had also been unaware of the pitches being closed.

“The school could have been more open about the matter. After all we parents entrust it to take care of our children,” he said.

Lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan expressed concerns despite the foundation’s assurances.

“What laboratory did they commission to do the testing?” she asked. “What chemicals did the laboratory test for? Did the laboratory take the sample from the part of the pitch near the goal posts that has a high usage or a part with a low usage? Was the sample gathered after a period of raining?”

What laboratory did they commission to do the testing? What chemicals did the laboratory test for?
Helena Wong Pik-wan, lawmaker

Wong urged the ESF to release its test results to allay parents’ fears.

Earlier in the month, the lawmaker said more than 10 parents from international schools in the city had complained to her about their children having lymphatic issues and rashes, which they believed were caused by the schools’ use of artificial turf pitches.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department now provides 38 artificial turf pitches, 32 of which are FIFA-approved “third-generation” versions. It said it is committed to replacing most natural grass pitches with artificial ones to raise “availability and quality” and reduce maintenance costs.

A 2009 consultancy report commissioned by the department found the cost of pitch repairs on natural turf to be around HK$700 per session, or HK$336,000 per pitch per season based on eight months of play. An artificial pitch can manage 270 sessions per month compared with just 60 sessions on a natural one. The report urged the department to increase the number of synthetic pitches.