AstroTurf to Eliminate Lead from Fields

A.J. Perez, USA Today, August 14, 2009

AstroTurf
agreed to reformulate its products, replace lead-tainted fields and
playground surfaces installed over the last five years and pay
thousands in fines, according to a settlement the California Attorney's
General's Office announced Friday.

"As schools and daycare centers replace grass
with artificial turf, extreme care must be taken to minimize lead
exposure," California Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement.

"This agreement is the first of its kind and will help make playgrounds and ball fields safe for our children."

In a lawsuit filed in September, California
claimed the U.S. arm of FieldTurf Tarkett, AstroTurf and the Beaulieu
Group "knowingly and intentionally exposed individuals within the State
of California to lead" in violation of Proposition 65, a ballot
initiative approved two decades ago that mandates warnings on any toxic
substances.

Lead, a carcinogen that's also known to harm
brain and nervous system development in children, was found in levels
of more than 5,000 parts per million – several times the threshold
thought to be safe – in tests conducted by the California Attorney
General's Office and the public interest group Center for Environmental
Health.

As part of the settlement that only applies to
California installations, AstroTurf will bring cut the presence of lead
– which was used by manufacturer to keep the colors vibrant – to 50
parts per million by June 2010, well below federal standards.

The company is also barred from selling its
current stock of turf that doesn't meet the current federal standards
and it must notify customers who have had AstroTurf installed over the
past five years.

Those customers can have their turf tested and replaced if lead is found.

"Out of concern for the health, safety and
welfare of the citizens of California and all of the folks who come in
contact with any of our products, we took immediate action," AstroTurf
President Bryan Peeples said in a statement. "Our products were already
deemed safe by national standards. We respect the additional concerns
of California, and have already eliminated any intentionally added
lead."

AstroTurf, which did not admit to any wrongdoing
in the settlement, will pay $170,000 in civil penalties, grants and
attorney fees. Peeples said that AstroTurf is already in the process of
reformulating its products.

Christine Gasparac, a spokeswoman for the
California Attorney's General Office, said the state is "exchanging
information and in productive settlement negotiations" with FieldTurf
Tarkett and the Beaulieu Group.

"The turf industry is on notice that lead is
unnecessary and has no place in playing fields for children," said
Michael Green, executive director Center for Environmental Health, in a
statement. "We applaud AstroTurf for taking this industry-leading step."

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