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It Isn't Nice To Fool Mother Nature- Lead In Artificial Turf

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, June 25, 2008 2:52 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Toxic Substances, Dangerous Products, Lead Poisoning, Defective Products

Lead is found in some artificial turf used in ballfields and parks.



IMAGE SOURCE: ©   iStockphoto/ soccerfield/ author: Filipp Bazlutskiy 


Artificial turf companies produce greener grass than nature intended - a lush, velvety, perfect field of green for stadiums, athletic playing fields, even school yards.   You don’t have to mow the stuff, or water it, making it almost ideal.    

Except for the lead.

The CDC, along with an environmental group are recommending that artificial turf athletic fields made from nylon be tested for lead, a potential neurotoxin.  

This recommendation comes two months after New Jersey health officials unexpectedly found lead in three athletic fields made of artificial turf while investigating another field for runoff from a scrap-metal operation in Newark.

A CDC Health Advisory recommends that fields should be tested that contain old, worn, or faded turf blades that are made from nylon fibers. 

Fields that have visible dust should also be tested because fibers and dust from the turf can become airborne from wear, and inhaled or swallowed by anyone using the field.

The Oakland, California-based Center for Environmental Health has filed a legal action against the state of California, demanding 15 retailers and manufacturers stop selling and producing the artificial turf that contains lead chromate, and for existing products to be recalled. 

The nonprofit environmental group tested artificial turf from different hardware stores including Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Orchard Supply, Lowes, as well as San Francisco Bay area turf installers. They found one-third of the samples made with nylon had high levels of lead that exceeded that limit of 0.5 micrograms per day of lead exposure. 

Humans ingest the lead through contact with skin through dust, contact with the turf or through hand-to-mouth contact. 

The legal action is filed under California’s strict toxic exposure law, Proposition 65. Previously the group campaigned to have lead removed from children’s toys, lunch boxes, candy, medicines, and play yard equipment.

The CDC reports that lead levels are not high enough to poison people who use these fields, but the lead can cause damage to children who have already been exposed to lead.

Last spring, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) initiated an investigation into synthetic turf and its health risks.  Julie Vallese of the CPSC, says consumers shouldn’t panic, as this is a fact-finding mission. The CPSC results should be issued in July.

For its part, the artificial turf industry says there is no risk to consumers because the chromate lead, which creates the greener-than-grass color, is encapsulated. That reduces the availability to be absorbed by the body, according to the Synthetic Turf Council

Caroline Cox, research director with the Center for Environmental Health, says that the center found some lead still breaks out.  

"It's true that not all was bioavailable," Cox told the San Jose Mercury News.  "But about 20 percent of it was. So even if only a fraction of what you ingest is bioavailable, that's still a problem."

Lead levels are estimated to be elevated in more than 300,000 U.S. children, according to the CDC.  Lead is known to affect the immune and nervous system.  Lower IQ scores have been observed in children with excessive lead exposure, as have memory problems, hyperactivity, and behavioral problems.

In adults, chronic kidney problems, as well as Lou Gherig’s disease, have been linked to lead exposure.

Meanwhile, the CDC says consumers should be particularly wary, especially if artificial turf appears worn.

While the testing is ongoing, the CDC recommends that you thoroughly wash your hands and shower immediately after using an artificial turf field. Turn clothing inside out to launder it separately from other laundry.  

Athletic shoes should be left outside of the home.

New Jersey is not waiting. Three artificial turf fields have been ripped out and replaced.  So far testing has not revealed any elevated blood levels in children. 

Artificial turf makers can do so without lead, and the Center for Environmental Health found that two-thirds of the samples they tested had no detectable levels of lead.   

The industry says that 90 percent of synthetic turf has very low or undetectable levels of lead. #

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