High lead levels close local ballfields

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2008 at 10:42 pm

June 10, 2008

Wednesday June 11, 2008, EDT 11:52


High lead levels found in artificial turf at both of Northern Valley Regional’s high schools have prompted school officials to close the fields indefinitely.

The results came just a week after state officials recommended that the federal government investigate nearly 4,000 artificial turf fields in use nationwide, following sample tests that found lead at three fields in New Jersey.

That round of testing did not include Northern Valley, which tested its fields independently.

Now, more testing of the fields at the Demarest and Old Tappan locations will be done to determine how serious the problem is and whether the fields might need to be replaced.

“We want to take every precaution to find out exactly what we have&hellip before we let anybody go back on the fields,” said Ray Jacobus, the assistant superintendent for business.

State health department officials say children would need to have prolonged contact with the fields as well as exposure to lead in other settings before their health would be at risk. Inhaling or ingesting lead can cause brain damage and other neurological illnesses, state health officials say.

“The main concern is the cumulative effect of a child being exposed to lead from a field when also exposed to lead at home,” said Marilyn Riley, a Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman. “That’s where more of the concern is.”

Concentrations of lead in fibers from the green-colored synthetic turf at the Demarest school’s field were about 15 times the state standard for residential soil — 6,300 milligrams of lead per kilogram of fiber over the state standard for soil of 400 milligrams of lead. A sample taken of the green turf fibers of Old Tappan’s field was 10 times the state standard.

The state recommends restricting the use of fields for children under the age of 7. If the fields are used, they should be watered down to suppress dust and hand, body and clothes should be washed thoroughly. The most conservative recommendation is to close the field.

A statement by FieldTurf Tarkett of Montreal, Canada, which installed both Northern Valley fields six years ago, said the company was “astonished’’ by the findings, given that the state health department tested 10 FieldTurf fields this spring and found “very low or undetectable levels of lead.’’

“As an industry leader in the synthetic turf industry with more than 2,500 installed fields around the world, FieldTurf is fundamentally dedicated to the health and well being of everyone who plays on our fields,’’ the statement reads.

FieldTurf is working with the Northern Valley to verify the results and wants to conduct its own tests, said spokesman Elliot Sloane.

The field closures could mean finding new on-campus locations for graduations on June 19 in Demarest and June 20 in Old Tappan, said Superintendent Jan Furman.

Four turf samples from each school’s field on May 21 were tested, said Gary Leverence, president of Environmental Remediation & Management, Inc. of Trenton. Each field had one sample with elevated lead levels. The results showed the lead is contained within the product used to dye the fields green, he said.

When she received the results on Friday, Furman closed the fields, which cost $700,000 each to install.

ER&M is performing more tests at the two fields: of the sand underneath the fields to determine if lead has leached beneath the turf and on dust from the field, which is collected from shoes. Results should be available by the end of the week.

Northern Valley hired ER&M after the state tested turf from about a dozen municipal parks and colleges and found elevated levels at fields in Hoboken and Ewing. A Newark field tested for high levels last summer. The turf was replaced at those sites.

The turf industry contends the potential harm to children is overstated.

Lead chromate has been used in some dyes to keep the green color of the blades from fading in the sunlight. The industry is moving to phase lead out as an ingredient, said Rick Doyle, president of the Synthetic Turf Council.

But Doyle said experts hired by the industry have determined that the lead chromate in the fields is insoluble and encapsulated, meaning that it won’t leach into the soil below and can’t be absorbed into the body.

The industry claims that a 50 pound child would have to ingest 100 pounds of synthetic turf to be at risk of absorbing more than the recommended standard for lead, Doyle said.

“At the end of the day, we are still saying that this turf is safe,” Doyle said.

Parent Peggy Blumenthal, whose 17-year-old son Sean has played soccer on the Demarest turf field, said state and federal agencies should have required lead testing statewide long ago.

“If state is coming down now saying we think there’s a problem, why didn’t they come down six years ago and do the research before it’s a problem, before everybody has it down?’’ she asked.

“What are we supposed to do as parents?’’ said the Haworth resident. “Do I take my child for lead testing? Do you get a blood test or urine test? What are you supposed to do? Accept it and see what happens 10 years down the road?’’

E-mail: sudol@northjersey.com

A debate has been raging for several years in the United States and Europe over whether artificial turf improves or worsens the environment.


* Minimal watering needed, only on hot days to cool playing surface.

* No fertilizer runoff into surrounding waters.

* No need for weedkillers and other pesticides.

* More than 25 million tires kept out of landfills, crushed and used as fill on synthetic fields.


* Chemicals. Activist groups call for more testing of not just lead content but of whether the chemical ingredients in crumb rubber can leach into the environment, give off gas or be ingested when they get on children’s hands.

* Runoff. Water flows off turf just like pavement, creating another impervious surface that could potentially damage surrounding wetlands and streams.

* Ground warming. Turf fields can overheat on hot days, creating mini heat islands.

* Disposal. When fields wear out, the fake grass and other materials likely will end up in landfills.

  1. What this article does not make clear is that the state epidemiologist, Dr. Eddy Brenitz, has repeatedly stated that, by itself, playing on these fields will not necessarily lead to high levels of lead in children.

    The soil tests that are currently being used to analyze the fibers are being called into question, since, unlike soil, the fibers are fixed and not easily removed from the surface (or eaten).

    Further, the lead that is used in the green dye is “encapsulated” in the fiber and has extremely low bioaccessibilty. In plain English, this means that the lead does not easily escape from the fiber (lead dust does not come off the fiber and touching the fiber does not pose a risk) and even if ingested by a child, the fiber would not easily be absorbed into the body.

    Finally, as stated in the article the level of lead is so low, that it would require over 100 pounds of fiber to be ingested at any time by a 50 pound child, before lead levels would be a concern. This is hundreds of square feed of 3″ long fibers. Common sense leads us to realize that this is an impossibility under even the wildest imaginable scenarios.

  2. No one has yet to mention the heat. Real grass is the answer and any thoughts to the contrary are totally out of step with going ” green”. It sounds like the fifties all over again when smoking was the in thing and negative findings were ignored. Go green not green plastic.

  3. Looks like state epidemiologist, Dr. Eddy Brenitz and other State officials, maybe having second thoughts on artificial turf. Below is a News Release from NJ Dept of Health and Senior Services.

    PO Box 360
    Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
    For Release:
    June 03, 2008
    Heather Howard
    For Further Information Contact:
    Donna Leusner or Marilyn Riley
    (609) 98407160

    DHSS Releases Final Artificial Turf Test Results

    Further laboratory testing has shown that lead can be dissolved from artificial turf fibers and turf field dust under conditions that simulate the human digestive process, leaving the lead available for the body to absorb, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard said today.

    The amount of lead dissolved from turf dust and some turf fibers was similar to that seen in studies of household dust and soil samples where the same testing method was used, the test results showed.

    “Lead is known to harm children’s health and neurologic development. These test results show there is reason for concern about the potential for lead exposure from artificial turf fields that contain lead,” Commissioner Howard said.

    “It’s a special concern for children who are already exposed to lead, possibly by living in a home with lead paint. This could add to the lead levels already in their bodies,” added State Epidemiologist and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Eddy Bresnitz.

    The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) continues to recommend that turf field managers and consumers who use residential turf products first determine if their turf includes fibers with lead in them. Earlier DHSS testing of a limited number of artificial turf samples found elevated lead levels in products that contain nylon fibers.

    The most conservative approach would be to limit access to an artificial turf field that contains lead. Proper maintenance can reduce exposure risk. Field users should wash properly afterward and ensure that their clothing is washed.

    Last month, Dr. Bresnitz sent the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) a letter, urging it to investigate the artificial turf used on athletic fields, play areas and in homes after New Jersey testing found very high lead levels in some artificial turf samples. Artificial turf products are distributed nationwide.

    Although other studies had shown that lead from lead paint or contaminated soil can be absorbed by the body, it was not known whether someone who accidentally swallowed bits of artificial turf fiber or turf field dust would be similarly at risk.

    DHSS arranged for additional testing of lead-containing turf and dust samples. The testing simulated the human digestive process to determine whether, and how much, lead could be dissolved out of the fibers and become available for absorption.

    The amount of lead actually absorbed by any individual would vary based on lead particle size, the person’s age and the person’s nutritional status, among other factors.

    DHSS has sent the CPSC and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a follow-up letter outlining the latest test results. DHSS also urged the agency to continue its turf investigation and to determine the appropriate measures to protect public health nationally.

  4. 7:15…

    Dr. Bresnitz is not having second thoughts at all. The “news release” you posted has nothing to do with the fields in Demarest. It was in response to the tests performed on Astroturf fields (not all fields use the same materials or construction) in Newark & Hoboken a month ago. Below is a comprehensive clarification of the NJDHSS results that were released on June 3rd. The results conclude that it would be virtually impossible for a child to be at risk from lead by playing on a synthetic field. This is particularly true in the case of fields built by FieldTurf, since the results of NJDHSS tests on 10 FieldTurf fields in Newark and Hoboken showed “very low or undetectable levels of lead” with this design…

    Synthetic turf test results released by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) on June 3rd confirmed lead chromate levels are well below that necessary to cause harm to children and athletes using the playing field surfaces.

    Lead chromate has been used in a number of synthetic turf fields to extend the life of its colorfastness. Lead chromate is a highly insoluble compound with extremely low bioavailability, which is diluted, extruded with resins and microencapsulated within the nylon fiber. In fact, OSHA requires no protective measures when handling the turf fibers. On three fields in New Jersey with elevated lead levels, the NJDHSS focused on the bioaccessibility of synthetic turf, which it defines as “the fraction of a substance in a material that is soluble and made available for absorption” by the body. Findings validated the position, based on science and expert opinion, that lead chromate’s extremely low bioavailability prevents it from being readily absorbed by the human body. Extremely low bioavailability means that even if the compound were to be ingested, it is very difficult for the compound to be absorbed within the body. There is no known evidence that this poses any health risk.

    From its tests, the NJDHSS reported that the amount of lead chromate contained in fibers from the three fields available for absorption in the intestine, which is where food altered by stomach acid is absorbed by the blood and lymphatic systems, ranged from 2.5% to 11%. We used the most extreme scenario, 11%, to calculate the amount of turf that would have to be ingested to equal the federal standard of 600 parts per million. In practical terms, it is virtually impossible for a child to be at risk from synthetic turf.

    According to calculations made by forensic toxicologist Dr. David Black, a 50 lb. child would have to ingest over 100 lbs. of synthetic turf to be at risk of absorbing enough lead to equal the minimum threshold of elevated blood lead. That level is even more unreachable than Dr. Black’s original worst case bioaccessibility, which was based on ingesting 23 lbs. of turf.

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s guidance states that young children “should not chronically ingest more than 15 micrograms of lead per day from consumer products.” Putting these test results in perspective, polymer and fiber engineering specialist Dr. Davis Lee calculated that a child playing on the three New Jersey fields would have to wipe his fingers on the turf and put them in his mouth 750 times in a day to receive enough lead to equal the CPSC threshold level.

    Dr. David Black performed the same tests as the NJDHSS, using the same protocol during late May, which showed an average bioaccessibility of 4%. The results of the two tests are similar and validate the safety of synthetic turf, including the synthetic turf NJDHSS reported to contain concentrations of lead chromate of between 3,400 and 4,700 part per million.

    The City of Newark recently conducted elemental analysis testing using EPA approved protocols on turf fibers from Ironbound Stadium, one of the fields identified in the New Jersey report. A separate independent test, supervised by Dr. Davis Lee, PhD of Chemistry with InnovaNet, was also conducted. Both tests concluded that under EPA approved test conditions, no leaching of heavy metals occurs. In other words – the lead chromate can’t escape the nylon within which it is contained.

    In addition, the City of Newark ordered an air monitoring test which was conducted by Weston Solutions at the Ironbound site during removal of the stadium’s nylon surface. The test found no detectable levels of airborne lead or lead chromate. This disproved the suggestion of the creation of “lead dust” that requires the fields to be watered or that must be washed off after playing on turf fields.

    Finally, it is important to point out that the evaluation by the NJDHSS of the safety of the material content of the synthetic turf in question is being made by using EPA residential soil safety standards. The EPA soil safety standard does not take into consideration the extremely low bioavailability of compounds that are bound and encapsulated in plastics such as synthetic turf.
    Given the serious nature of the report, it’s critically important to point out the NJDHSS report itself acknowledges there is “a very low risk of exposure” to the users of any of the fields in question.

  5. Man, the Lacrosse dads are all worked up over this bad publicity….maybe they should get funding to buy The Record and rename the paper The Lacrosse Times.

  6. Why have this discussion at all? We are lucky to have grass fields to play on and if we maintain them well and are cautious about pesticide use, we need not enter into this debate.

  7. The fields that were closed for high lead levels in Demerest and Old Tappan and were installed by
    Field Turf the same outfit that installed Maple Field. We should have Maple’s lead levels tested ASAP. Until the lead testing is preformed at Maple Field, parents should also be informed that the NJ Health Department is recommending that artificial turf field users wash properly afterward and ensure that their clothing is washed so the lead is not absorbed into their kid’s bodies.

  8. This gives new meaning to the phrase, “stay off the grass.”

  9. It is true that the Demarest fields and Maple Park Field are FieldTurf. So, were a number of the fields in Hoboken and Newark that showed “very low or undetectable levels of lead” in NJDHSS tests a month ago. This is why the tests conducted by Environmental Remediation & Management, Inc. in Demarest have been called into question and additional tests are being conducted by another firm.

    Unlike nylon fiber fields, FieldTurf’s polyethylene fibers do not release lead from the lead chromate used in the green dye that is micro-encapsulated in the fiber. There has not been a single test performed on any FieldTurf field that has concluded that lead dust is present or that lead can be absorbed by contact with the fibers on the field (including the tests in Demarest). Therefore, while showering after athletic activity is good hygiene, it is not necessary to remove traces of lead (which do not exist).

    The reported results from the Demarest fields stand in contrast to virtually every test ever done on hundreds of FieldTurf fields. Could it be that something is amiss with these test results? Before we start calling for tests at Maple Park, perhaps we should wait to see the results from the follow-up tests in Demarest. If they confirm a problem, then by all means, let’s test Maple Park Field.

    And, if it comes to that, let’s be sure that we are testing for something relevant. In other words, is there any health risk from playing on or coming into contact with the field surface? A soil test that assumes the field surface is loose particulate (soil) is inappropriate for testing bound fibers that are not loose. Perhaps a “carpet” test would be more appropriate.

    Claiming that a field surface “may contribute to a cumulative lead exposure” if a 50 pound child eat 100 pounds of fiber (100s of square feet of turf), which is permanently bound to the field surface is outrageous. It could never happen. It reminds me of when researchers claimed that Coke could cause health problems in humans after feeding rats the equivalent of 50 cans of Coke per day for years and observing adverse health affects. Let’s all try to use a little common sense.



  12. Weren’t we told..
    “there are NO TIRES used in Field Turf that the rubber fill was from a cryogenically treated rubber product. (Nike shoes?)

    Well,Now Field Turf website does call it..

    “The rubber granules are a key component. Tire rubber is cryogenically frozen, shattered into smooth, clean, rounded particles, sized and shaped to stay «in suspension» “

    “Installation of a FieldTurf field eliminates the use of harmful pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, while at the same time, removes over 40,000 tires from landfill sites.”
    (1 field, 40,000 tires!!!!!)


    from link:
    Lead chromate – Continuous Improvement: more than 90% of the colored fibers used in synthetic turf today contain lead chromate levels below the federal standard. Even so, our industry is voluntarily developing pigment formulations that continue to reduce lead chromate levels while maintaining high levels of quality and performance.
    (Continue to REDUCE lead chromate levels?? Look at all the products containing lead from China! tons of Government recalls)

    It’s about time the Government and State finally listened and are establishing proper guidelines testing for lead, and who knows what else may be in these artificial turfs!!

  13. To 8:25:

    My understanding is that the infill at Maple Park was something called Nike Grind, which FieldTurf offers as an option and blends recycled Nike shoe soles with specially treated and cleaned ground tire rubber.

    The tests that were conducted on the fields in question found no safety concerns about the rubber infill. In the past, people had raised concerns about the infill. But, legitimate testing has repeatedly dispelled these concerns, which were based on erroneous claims. Why would you criticize FieldTurf for recycling tires in an environmentally responsible manner, which would otherwise end up UNTREATED in landfills? Below is the full text from which your selective excerpt was taken.

    “Installation of a FieldTurf field eliminates the use of harmful pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, while at the same time, removes over 40,000 tires from landfill sites.

    FieldTurf requires no mowing, fertilizing, reseeding or watering. A typical soccer / football field can use between 2.5 million and 3.5 million gallons of water per year.

    FieldTurf saves a billion gallons of fresh water every year. Coupled with reduced labor costs related to maintenance, equipment and elimination of costs for supplies such as fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, many of our clients report a reduction in maintenance costs of as much as $30,000 to $60,000 per field, per year.”

    The concern from the NJDHSS report is with lead from lead chromate in the dye used to color the green fibers. As others have pointed out, this is encapsulated in the patented FieldTurf fibers (which are different from other manufactures). The lead does not “leach” out of the fibers and is not transmitted through contact with the fibers. The tests that have raised this issue dissolve the fibers in acid to release the lead. The pesticides, fertilizer and geese droppings that were previously found on Maple Park Field, leached into the ground water and were easily transmitted through contact with the skin represented the true health risk.

    It is very important that concerned individuals distinguish between FieldTurf and other “synthetic turf designs”. Despite the fact that the NJDHSS test DO NOT indicate that the lead on the FieldTurf fields is released through normal usage and that they state that “by itself, playing on the fields does not pose a health concern”, FieldTurf has voluntarily explored ways to reduce or eliminate lead entirely from its design.

    In support of the environmental responsibility of FieldTurf’s design, it should be noted that the EPA has formed and partnership with FieldTurf through its GreenScapes program (see http://fieldturf.com/specialFeatures.cfm?specialFeatureID=331&lang=en).

    FieldTurf’s design has also been recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council for qualification under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System™. This is the national standard for what constitutes a “green building” and is utilized as a design guideline and certification tool for architects and designers seeking to develop high-performance, sustainable buildings. FieldTurf’s qualification falls under LEED Version 2.2,. which is an updated version of the rating system for new construction, major renovations, and water efficiency. It is designed to guide and distinguish high-performance commercial and institutional projects. A recent large FieldTurf project in Nevada earned LEED point recognition by saving 129 acre feet of water a year, enough to provide water to 428 single family homes, while providing a safe recreational space.

    When you take the time to learn the facts and consider them rationally, it is hard to make a compelling case against the safety and environmental responsibility of FieldTurf’s design.

  14. 10:18 AM : If ever there was a spin doctor you are one. Nevada is a desert with the most limited water supply. Artificial turf just adds to the heat and does not allow for proper drainage of even the most limited rainfall. Why have artificial turf when thereis an alternative- GRASS! And we are lucky enough to be able to grow it and maintain it in our community.

  15. 12.01…

    You seem to have missed the last few years of this discussion, when the need for artificial turf to compliment or natural grass fields was well documented. We would all prefer well manicured natural grass. However, the reality of our circumstances in Ridgewood make that impossible.

    I fail to see how pointing to a documented case of LEED recognition of a FieldTurf project is “spin”. Further, you have either been misinformed or are attempting to misinform others. The FACT is that FieldTurf fields provide dramatically superior drainage and flood control over natural grass fields, without similar drain age systems. In fact, FieldTurf fields can drain up to 100 gallons/square foot/minute. No grass field can come close to that. In addition, the drained water is released into the surrounding water table at a significantly reduced rate, thereby minimizing flooding in surrounding areas. This has been observed and documented repeatedly in our own town at Maple Park Field. Perhaps you verify your information before you confuse others with your ignorance.

  16. It isn’t impossible and I’ve been around for many years looking at the issues and trying to be objective. However, sometimes the price you pay for the all around best might be the priciest but we have never challenged natural grass providers for a work up on actual costs and benefits. We have drunk the Field Turf Kool Ade and have lost our objectivity. There is no replacement for natural grass. To argue other wise is to have not truly listened to the otherside. As a pro active citizen of my community, I feel the use of artificial turf is a slap in the face to the environment.

  17. You sound like an employee of the Field Turf Company. Or maybe you are just copying from a brochure.

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