Several weeks ago, Daniel Vasquez of the Sun-Sentinel wrote an article about Lesia DeFelice, a homeowner in an HOA in South Florida who replaced her lawn with Astroturf. DeFelice argues that the turf is a necessary adjunct of xeriscaping, a manner of landscaping that reduces the need for irrigation. Her HOA disagrees, for one basic reason–the covenants of the community prohibit homeowners from installing Astroturf in their lawns. After the article ran, the comments were overwhelmingly in favor of the homeowner and against the HOA, although, in fairness, the bulk of Internet comments tend to be anti-association to begin with. In this case the posters, and even the author of the article, seem to feel that the objection to Astroturf is just another example of shared ownership communities run amok.
But is that the whole story? A little investigation shows that Astroturf is a touchy subject.
It turns out that Astroturf, which is made from crushed up tires, is filled with carcinogens and dangerous chemicals, and there are a number of advocates who fear that those chemicals will leach into our water table and pollute our drinking water. Sure, lawns require dangerous pesticides to keep them green and happy, but the argument is that we’re better off researching ways to reduce our dependence on pesticides, rather than expose everyone to the known dangerous chemicals found in all kinds of turf. For a couple of thoughts on this issue, see the following articles:
Now, I’m not in any way suggesting that these articles PROVE that Astroturf is dangerous–but it is a question that is being legitimately debated and one that should be investigated further. The question itself, however, demonstrates that the “obvious” answer to many problems isn’t always that obvious.