Could artificial-turf pose a health hazard? The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is examining playing fields with artificial-turf across the country to see if lead levels are at hazardous levels. As reported by The AP:
Two fields in New Jersey were closed this week after state health officials detected what they said were unexpectedly high levels of lead in the synthetic turf and raised fears that athletes could swallow or inhale fibers or dust from the playing surface.
The artificial-turf industry denied its products are dangerous. But the CPSC it is investigating.
"We have a great deal of interest into any consumer product that could be used by children where children could potentially be in harm's way because of lead exposure," CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said.
According to The AP report, pigment containing lead chromate is used in some surfaces to make the turf green and hold its color in sunlight. But it is not clear how widely the compound is used. The New Jersey Health Department found lead in both of the nylon fields it tested, but in none of the 10 polyethylene surfaces it examined.
Both fields that were shut down used AstroTurf. General Sports Venue entered into an agreement with Textile Management Associates, Inc. TMA acquired the AstroTurf brand, including all assets and intellectual property, from SRI Sports in February of 2004.
According to the Synthetic Turf Council, “over 800 multi-use synthetic turf sports fields are installed annually in North American schools, colleges, parks and professional sports stadiums. About half of all NFL teams currently play their games on synthetic turf, and it is approved for World Cup soccer matches.”
Currently, the Metrodome and Tropicana Field are the last facilities in MLB that uses synthetic turf.
In a news release by the Synthetic Turf Council (PDF), they state:
The City of Newark recently conducted elemental analysis testing using EPA approved protocols on turf fibers from Ironbound Stadium, one of the fields identified in the New Jersey report. A separate independent test, supervised by Dr. Davis Lee, PhD of Chemistry with InnovaNet, was also conducted. Both tests concluded that under EPA approved test conditions, no leaching of heavy metals occurs. In other words – the lead chromate can’t escape the nylon within which it is contained.
There are approx. 3,500 synthetic playing surfaces across the U.S. The two parks in New Jersey that were voluntarily closed were Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken and a playing surface at the College of New Jersey in Ewing. Upon testing they found lead levels 10 times the amount that is allowed in soil on contaminated sites that are being turned into homes. The CPSC does not test for lead levels in synthetic playing surfaces.
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