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California AG Suing Artificial Turf Makers

Sep 5, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit against three artificial turf manufacturers Tuesday, saying turf –which contains lead—violates the state's environmental laws as stipulated in Proposition 65.  The lawsuit cites high levels of lead in turf samples from the three companies and alleges these companies knowingly failed to disclose lead was used in their products.  The state is concerned about the high amount of lead the fields release as they get older and might force schools to replace fields.  Depending on how the California lawsuit ends, the suit could cause huge financial loss to those manufacturers.

Last month, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to immediately remove and revise a report posted on its Website that may be “dangerously and deceptively” misleading consumers into believing artificial turf has been proven safe.  Blumenthal said the CPSC relied on a “grossly inadequate and badly flawed study” in declaring synthetic turf safe to install and play on.  Blumenthal said the study focused narrowly and insufficiently on lead” and also failed to look at several other chemicals and concerns.  Now, despite that the CPSC has declared artificial turf safe, the California Attorney General's office is also taking action.

In Blumenthal’s letter to CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy Ann Nord, he wrote that the CPSC’s claims, which he said are based on such a “crudely cursory study,” may dangerously deceive municipal and state leaders nationwide about the safety of synthetic turf.  Blumenthal also said that the CPSC has a moral and possibly legal obligation to immediately remove and revise its synthetic turf report from its Website; this, for the sake of public health and safety.  “This report and release are as deceptive as some of the advertising and marketing of consumer products prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general….  There is a clear and present danger that municipal and state decision makers—as well as parents and citizens—will rely on this unconscionably deficient report.  It is replete with unsound scientific methodology and conclusions, and unreliable findings.  It may lead to unsupportable and unwise commitments by towns and cities or their boards of education to build or replace athletic fields.  I have personally reached no conclusion on the safety or health issues concerning artificial turf, because no complete or comprehensive study has been done.  This one, far from being complete or comprehensive, is profoundly misleading and misguided and may lead to bad policymaking. Timely corrective action—indeed immediate revision—is essential.”

Also noted were important exclusions, “There is no indication that CPSC considered other important risks, some presented or aggravated by very high temperatures in the summer sun, and exposure to serious infection caused by the more extensive skin burns and abrasions created by falls on this material.  Further, while CPSC staff admits that aging, wear and exposure to sunlight may change the amounts of chemicals released, CPSC has not even attempted to study or quantify the effects of those changes on health and safety.”  Blumenthal also mentioned that the study was incomplete, “Even as to the lead issue, the CSPC study is seriously and reprehensibly flawed. The study evaluated only 14 samples of artificial turf, even though thousands of these fields are in use. Worse, six samples were from portions of turf that was never installed or used, and one sample came from a field that was no longer in use.”


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