Consumer Reports News: June 19, 2008

Excerpts From The Article:

"The CDC says it is specifically concerned about older artificial turf made of nylon or nylon/polyethylene blend fibers. Turf made with only polyethylene fibers showed very low levels of lead. The agency also says the immediate risk for harmful lead exposure from new fields is low because the turf fibers are still intact. As the turf ages and weathers, lead is released in the form of dust that could then be ingested or inhaled, and the risk for harmful exposure increases.

The alert was prompted by the results of a recent routine health investigation of a Newark, N.J. scrap metal facility by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). As part of the probe, the agencies tested a nearby community athletic field for lead contamination. Samples taken from the field showed high levels of lead in the field dust, but the lead did not come from the scrap metal facility.

After determining that the artificial turf was, in fact, the source of lead, the NJDHSS began to test other artificial turf fields and found similarly high lead levels. The agency reported that some of these fields were weathered and visibly dusty and that fields that are old, that are used frequently, and that are exposed to the weather can break down into dust as the turf fibers become worn and weathered. These findings raised concerns about potentially high lead levels in artificial turf used in other locations including fields and playgrounds elsewhere in the state and across the country. 

The CDC says it currently does not know how much lead the body might absorb from artificial turf fields, but warns that if enough lead is absorbed it can cause harm to neurological development. The CDC says additional tests are being performed by the NJDHSS to help understand the absorption of lead from such fields.

In addition, the CDC has also issued these recommendations for turf field owners and/or managers:

  • Test turf that has fibers that are abraded, faded or broken, contains visible dust, and that is made from nylon or nylon-blend fibers.
  • If the dust contains more than 400 ppm lead, do not allow turf access to children under the age of 6 years.
  • If access is restricted, care should be taken to ensure that alternative sites contain lead levels less than 400 ppm.
  • Do not test turf made from polyethylene-only fibers. This recommendation is based on currently available data.
  • Do not test turf made from nylon or nylon blends that is not worn and does not contain visible dust. But these fields should be routinely monitored for wear and dust generation.
  • Replace fields as soon as practicable if worn and dusty, as a precautionary measure."