Suits Filed over Lead in Artificial Turf (San Francisco Chronicle)
Jane Kay, San Francisco Chronicle, September 3, 2008
Six artificial-turf companies are breaking state law by not warning the
public of exposure to dangerous amounts of lead from the fake green grass,
according to two separate lawsuits filed Tuesday by the California attorney
general and an environmental group.
The suits, designed to stop the sale of any new turf manufactured with lead,
say the toxic metal gets on the hands and bodies of children and adults who play
on synthetic grass found at athletic fields, public schools, parks, day care
centers and residences.
Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986,
requires warning of exposure to an unsafe level of a chemical that can cause
cancer or birth defects. Lead is a carcinogen and can cause neurological damage,
says the lawsuit filed in Alameda Superior Court.
"The goal is to get the lead out of the California pipeline so it's not being
sold in the state," said Dennis Ragen, the deputy attorney general handling the
case for the state.
The companies have already expressed a willingness to make turf without lead,
The state attorney general – joined by the city attorney of Los Angeles and
the district attorney of Solano County – filed against Astro Turf, the first
branded distributor of synthetic grass; Beaulieu Group, which sells to Home
Depot, Ace Hardware and Lowe's, and Field Turf USA, a leading manufacturer and
installer of football fields.
The Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland nonprofit, sued Shaw
Industries, one of the world's biggest carpet companies, as well as Synthetic
Turf International and Turf Headquarters, name-brand vendors.
In May, the center sued Beaulieu, and sent letters of intent to sue 15 other
manufacturers, distributors and retailers. On Tuesday, the center also filed
additional intent-to-sue letters.
None of the company representatives could be reached for comment Tuesday.
According to Ragen, there have been very productive settlement negotiations
with Astroturf and Beaulieu. He hasn't yet been able to talk to Field Turf, he
Annie Costa, executive director of the Association of Synthetic Grass
Installers, said the trade group is looking forward to receiving clear direction
on how to handle existing inventories, including what kinds of warnings or
health advisories would be appropriate. The industry is already beginning to
reformulate the products because of California's concerns, she said.
In 2007, 20 million square feet of artificial turf was installed in
landscapes, lawns, putting greens, day care centers and kennels, among other
locations in California; 35 million square feet were installed in sport fields,
including football, lacrosse, soccer and field hockey.
San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department has issued a report that
recommends putting in dozens of lead-free artificial turf grass and
environmentally sound base materials.
In July, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission looked at 14 samples
from four companies and determined that synthetic turf wasn't a danger because
of lead. However, the agency recommended that companies voluntarily remove it.
Some have already begun to phase it out.
The state of New Jersey found high lead levels at community athletic fields,
generating an inquiry by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But more comprehensive lead studies procured by the Center for Environmental
Health found lead in artificial turf at worrisome levels, including artificial
grass used by residential installers and do-it-yourselfers.
More than 150 samples from two dozen companies tested by an independent lab
showed that 30 percent had high lead levels. Ten or more companies had high
levels of lead in different varieties of artificial turf. One of the major
companies had a sample showing lead at 150 times higher than federal standards
that will come into play with new legislation banning lead in children products.
The concerns are that children put their contaminated hands in their mouths or
breathe in dust from degraded plastic.
To learn more
More information from the Center for Environmental Health may be found at
Consumers with questions about sending samples for lead testing to the center
may call (510) 655-3900.