Mayor Michelle Wu last week halted the installation of a new artificial turf field in a city park, but city officials stopped short of calling the move a ban.

“The City has a preference for grass playing surfaces wherever possible,” a city spokesman said in a statement to GBH News. “There is no ban on the installation of turf in the City of Boston.”

That clarification came after the appearance of a single sentence in the reconstruction plans of the city’sMalcolm X Park in Roxbury. A notation in the plan stated: “Mayor Wu has directed that no new artificial turf fields will be installed in the City of Boston.”

Kyla Bennett, director of science policy at the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the environmental nonprofit heralded the statement as a sign of the city’s support of recent health discoveries about a group of chemicals known as PFAS, or so-called “forever chemicals,” in artificial turf.

And the purported ban made headlines in the British daily The Guardian, which publisheda reporton the matter.

Bennett said Wu appears to be backtracking, saying the city has not banned artificial turf outright even though the notation is explicit. Wu is not elaborating on the issue, but Bennett said it could be to avoid legal action.

“They sue at the drop of a hat,” Bennett said of the turf industry. “They're fighting as hard as they can to make this stuff as long as they can. They know it's dangerous, but they don't care because they're making a lot of money.”

In response to the block of future turf installation, Melanie Taylor, president and CEO of the Synthetic Turf Council, condemned Mayor Wu’s actions.

“The mayor’s decision will only succeed in depriving Bostonians of year-round access to playing fields,” said Taylor. “We will continue to work with public officials to educate them on the proven safety and reliability benefits of synthetic turf systems.”

The debate over the installation of new turf in parks in Boston comes just months after the Environmental Protection Agency released a series of health advisories over perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water.

“That's the first time that EPA has said, ‘OK, we were wrong, this stuff is really dangerous,’” said Bennett.

The chemicals are used in a wide variety of products, including artificial turf. PFAS don't easily break down, and because of widespread use, the chemicals have been found in water supplies and soil. Exposure has been linked to a myriad of health risks ranging from developmental issues to certain kinds of cancer.

“Our exposure to them is what we call ubiquitous, which means that almost every single person in the world … has levels of PFAS chemicals in their bodies,” said Dr. Julia Varshavsky, an assistant professor of environmental health and Northeastern University.

Children playing on artificial turf fields are also at some of the highest risk of exposure, according to Bennett. Turf is made from plastic blades of grass and an infill layer of crumbled black rubber from old tires. Those crumbs can get accidentally ingested as kids play. And the fields can also become worn enough to release PFAS as the fibers break down.

Bennett said Wu never intended to make a public announcement banning artificial turf.

“I wish that she had done it more publicly,” Bennett said. “It was just an accident that we found it in that document and blew it up. She probably is not overly fond of the fact that we did that.”

Phil Brown, co-director of the Social Science and Environmental Health Institute at Northeastern University, said cities like Boston have major influence over how states and federal government respond to man-made environmental threats. He said Massachusetts already exceeds EPA regulations on allowable PFAS chemicals, but he hopes moves like Wu’s – however unintentional – encourage more scrutiny.

“Towns and cities can do a lot and they can have influence on the state,” he said. “We're now waiting to see that pressure go up to the EPA, so that at a federal level, they'll [become] regulations.”