Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Is artificial turf still the lesser of the two evils?

Artificial Turf companies tell us that their product is an environmentally friendly one because there is no need for pesticides. Although true, what is the point of replacing a growing surface with a fake one if it too is potentially hazardous?

Taken from the Center for Disease Control and Preventions website (

Recent tests by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) of artificial turf playing fields in that state have found these fields contain potentially unhealthy levels of lead dust. The initial tests were conducted on a limited number of playing fields. NJDHSS sampling of additional athletic fields and other related commercial products indicates that artificial turf made of nylon or nylon/polyethylene blend fibers contains levels of lead that pose a potential public health concern. Tests of artificial turf fields made with only polyethylene fibers showed that these fields contained very low levels of lead.

Information provided by NJDHSS to CDC and ATSDR indicates that some of the fields with elevated lead in either dust and/or turf fiber samples were weathered and visibly dusty. Fields that are old, that are used frequently, and that are exposed to the weather break down into dust as the turf fibers are worn or demonstrate progressive signs of weathering, including fibers that are abraded, faded or broken. These factors should be considered when evaluating the potential for harmful lead exposures from a given field.

The risk for harmful lead exposure is low from new fields with elevated lead levels in their turf fibers because the turf fibers are still intact and the lead is unlikely to be available for harmful exposures to occur. 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. If exposures do occur, CDC currently does not know how much lead the body will absorb; however, if enough lead is absorbed, it can cause neurological development symptoms (e.g. deficits in IQ). Additional tests are being performed by NJDHSS to help us better understand the absorption of lead from these products.


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