Lead in Artificial Turf (Extended)
Problem: High levels of lead have been found in some varieties of artificial turf and fake grass, used for sports fields, school and daycare playgrounds, backyards and landscapes, and other uses. Pigments used in turf often contain a lead-based additive that enables the product to retain its color outdoors, where sun-bleaching is an issue. Lead from turf can wipe off onto children’s hands, posing a threat of exposure from hand-to-mouth behaviors. Young children may be at greater risk, since they may chew on or swallow turf blades, which often easily come off of turf fields. Lead can also build up on dust in turf, posing an exposure threat from hand contact and from inhalation. In the 1990s, the federal government banned lead in certain vinyl window blinds due to a similar concern about dust on the blinds posing a lead exposure threat to children.
Many harmful chemicals have been found in tire-based rubber turf infill as well. For a full list of chemicals identified by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in air or water near synthetic turf fields, click here.
CEH Action: In 2008, CEH tested artificial turf from a wide variety of sources, including sports field and school playground installations, residential turf makers, and retailers selling lawn grass for do-it-yourselfers. We found high levels of lead from products purchased from major retailers, including Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Orchard Supply Hardware, as well as from numerous turf makers, including the leading manufacturers AstroTurf and Field Turf.
See the 2008 CEH Report, Not Really Greener, Lead in Artificial Turf.
Solution: AstroTurf took immediate action in response to the CEH report, and in 2009 the company became the first turf maker to agree with CEH to legally binding rules banning lead in its turf. The next year, CEH and the California Attorney General finalized legal agreements with Field Turf and other turf makers, to insure that turf products no longer pose lead hazards to children.
The settlement also calls on the companies to offer compensation to those who have certain older, lead-tainted turf fields.
See the settlements here:
FieldTurf, Beaulieu to eliminate lead from products in California deal, USA Today, July 16, 2010
AstroTurf to eliminate lead from fields, USA Today, August 14, 2009
Lead “Unacceptably High” on Turf, Statesman Journal (OR), August 28, 2008
Group Warns on Lead in Turf, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 24, 2008