Artificial TurfJul 31, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation last month that some artificial turf athletic fields be tested for lead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is saying children are "not at risk" from lead in turf products. U.S. congresswoman Representative Rosa DeLauro—Democrat-Connecticut—disagrees and expressed skepticism about the report, saying she plans to continue reviewing the CPSC's examination.
DeLauro questioned the effectiveness of the CPSC's investigation, which—by the way—led it to call for voluntary standards that would exclude lead use in future products. DeLauro said she will continue pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to examine the crumb rubber used in turf. "Given this is the same (CPSC) that oversaw record recalls in 2007, I have concerns about the conclusions drawn in their evaluation," DeLauro said in a statement to USA TODAY. "It is particularly disconcerting that at the same time they are saying the synthetic fields are safe, they are urging that voluntary guidelines be developed. I intend to further examine this evaluation to determine the best course of action."
While AstroTurf's marketers were thrilled with the report, the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland claims that the CPSC's "flawed analysis" used a more lenient lead standard than California's. In response, CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese said that different states have different regulations. Regardless, many wonder if the lenient standards that prompted the announcement will allow for future health problems in children.
Politicians and consumer watchdogs feel the issue is nowhere near over and expect that the next challenge will be over potential health and environmental hazards from recycled tire rubber, or crumb rubber. Crumb rubber is used as artificial dirt between plastic blades of grass on many fields. While the EPA's "scoping study" hasn't begun, agency spokesman Dale Kemery confirmed it would cover crumb rubber and turf.
Meanwhile, two fields in New Jersey were closed down, in part prompting the review, after they were found to contain unexpectedly high levels of lead in the synthetic turf, raising concerns that athletes could swallow or inhale fibers or dust from turf surfaces. Attention was focused on New Jersey after state health authorities discovered lead when investigating if runoff from a scrap-metal operation in Newark contaminated an adjacent playing field. The three New Jersey fields were voluntarily ripped up.
And, while the artificial turf industry denied its products are dangerous, tests confirm humans can absorb lead in turf. The tests conducted by New Jersey health officials found potentially hazardous lead levels on worn nylon and nylon-blend athletic fields. Use of artificial turf has grown exponentially in recent years and is seen as a way to cut costs and water use. But, lead chromate pigment is sometimes used to make the grass green and maintain its color in sunlight. It remains unclear how widely the compound is used; however, the New Jersey Health Department found lead in both of the nylon fields it tested which were AstroTurf brand surfaces.