Artificial Turf: The Dangerous Downside
Thanks to drought and maintenance concerns, artificial turf fields are becoming a popular replacement for water- and labor-intensive grass fields at California schools. But recent tests have found that turf made of nylon or nylon/polyethylene blend fibers may expose children to dangerous levels of lead, which can cause neurological problems, cancer, birth defects, and is especially harmful to developing children. A Center for Environmental Health (CEH) study showed that some turf samples contained lead levels 150 times the limits allowed in new federal standards for toys.
In June 2008, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a warning that "As the turf ages and weathers, lead is released in dust that could then be ingested or inhaled, and the risk for harmful exposure increases." Two artificial turf fields in New Jersey were closed after state officials found up to 10 times the amount of lead that is allowed on contaminated sites being considered for home construction.
In September, the CEH filed lawsuits against retailers and synthetic turf companies for failing to disclose that their products contain lead, and is calling for turf makers to reformulate their products to eliminate the lead risk to children. Most manufacturers are voluntarily phasing out lead-based pigments. CEH recommends that parents and schools be sure that children wash their hands thoroughly after playing on artificial turf fields. Parents, schools or others with artificial turf fields can contact CEH’s Oakland office with questions about sending in samples for lead testing: (510) 655-3900.
See the Green Schoolyards Directory in our Green Buying Guide for resources.