City leaders in the states capital are considering doing just the opposite of the law that was enacted many years ago that bans synthetic turf from being installed. Faced with a fourth year of drought, a Sacramento City Council committee voted 3-1 to consider lifting the city’s ban on synthetic turf in front yards. The prohibition has been on the books in some form since 1984. The main reason for the ban had been concerns the fake stuff looked too tacky. There is no restriction on synthetic turf for backyards.

With modern synthetic turf increasingly looking almost indistinguishable from real grass, the products have become ever-more popular in parched California cities. Sacramento city officials are responding to the demand. Go to your Costco, your Lowe’s, your Home Depot, it’s out there.

While specific numbers for California aren’t available, industry group websites suggest the artificial-lawn business is increasing by nearly 80 percent a year.

Still, not everyone is convinced the city should embrace synthetic turf as a way to keep up appearances while saving water.

While the artificial-turf industry points to studies that show its products are safe and environmentally friendly, some critics worry about toxins from synthetic yards and fields leaching into air and waterways. Fake turf, these critics say, is an ecological dead zone akin to pavement, and the carpet-like sheets will likely end up clogging landfills at the end of a fake lawn’s life.

Some of those raising concerns, including a California state senator, cite potential risks to human health. Their main worry has little to do with the types of artificial lawns Sacramento homeowners might have installed.

The human-health fears focus largely on lead and other toxins that critics say are in the ground-up, recycled tires that make up the small “crumb rubber” pellets used primarily in sports fields to mimic dirt and give the surface a more forgiving bounce.

Such arguments are anecdotal – and scientifically unverified.

The city currently doesn’t include replacing natural lawns with synthetic ones in its lawn rebate program, which reimburses single-family homeowners up to $1,000 to tear out front lawns and replace them with native and drought-tolerant plants. Patterson said there are no immediate plans to include an artificial-turf rebate.