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Lead in Artificial Turf Concerns Senator

Jun 27, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Lead tainted artificial turf athletic fields have caught the attention of one US Senator, who has asked the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to expand its investigation into the problem.  Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has also asked the agency to provide recommendations on how parents can protect children who play on artificial grass fields, lawns and playgrounds.

The CPSC began investigating artificial turf in April, after health officials in New Jersey closed down three fields in that state after detecting what they found to be unexpectedly high levels of lead in the synthetic turf, raising concerns that athletes could swallow or inhale fibers or dust from turf surfaces.

Exposure to lead in children and unborn children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems.  Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, lead can damage the nervous system.  Despite efforts to control lead and the success in decreasing lead poisoning, serious cases still occur.  Once poisoned, no organ system is immune.  Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that artificial turf fields containing worn or faded turf blades made of nylon or nylon-blend fibers and nylon fields with visible dust be tested.  In its advisory, the CDC stated, “As determined by New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, limited sampling of additional athletic fields in New Jersey and commercial products indicates that artificial turf made of nylon or nylon/polyethylene blend fibers contains levels of lead that pose a potential public health concern.”

Earlier this week, The Center for Environmental Health, a California-based advocacy group, conducted its own lead testing of artificial turf, as well as indoor/outdoor carpeting, artificial lawns and playground grass made with nylon and polyethylene.  The group classified the amount of lead as excessive if it exceeded 600 parts per million, which is the maximum allowable in paint. About 50 products were tested, and at least 15 were found to have high lead levels. In one test, lead was so accessible, it could be wiped away with a cloth.

The Center for Environmental Health has  begun notifying 15 turf manufacturers and retailers - including the maker of Astro Turf, Ace Hardware and Lowe’s - of its intent to sue under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act unless the companies agree to recall the products or reformulate artificial turf so it contains less lead.

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