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Turf war: California sues artificial-grass makers over lead content

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2008 at 11:22 pm

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown and other law enforcement officials allege that three makers of artificial turf deliberately failed to disclose that their products contain lead.

By Marc Lifsher
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 4, 2008

SACRAMENTO — California’s attorney general wants to put a new spin on the old admonition “Don’t step on the grass!”

The warning could read “Don’t roll on the artificial turf” if Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown and local law enforcement officials prevail in a lawsuit filed late Tuesday against three top makers of the green plastic playing fields and grasslike indoor-outdoor carpeting.

The complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court alleges that the three manufacturers violated California’s Proposition 65 environmental law by knowingly failing to disclose that their products contain lead.

The lawsuit, which has been joined by Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and Solano County Dist. Atty. David W. Paulson, names Beaulieu Group of Georgia, AstroTurf of Georgia and FieldTurf USA Inc. of Florida.

All three companies said they were working with California officials to settle the lawsuit and stressed that their products were safe.

AstroTurf, an artificial-turf pioneer, said in a statement that it “has demonstrated its industry leadership by proactively developing new products that are below the most stringent standards for lead in consumer products.”

Joe Fields, chief executive of FieldTurf’s Canadian parent company, said that his artificial turf recently got a clean bill of health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Lead, which is used to give a natural green hue to the artificial turf, has been identified by state agencies as an ingredient that can cause cancer, damage to male and female reproductive systems, and birth defects in developing fetuses.

Children and other individuals can ingest harmful levels of lead by absorbing it through the skin or by rubbing the ersatz grass and then touching food or their mouths, the suit contends.

The state attorney general’s office said it found excessive lead levels in some of the artificial-turf samples tested from the three companies.

Although artificial turf presents little or no danger when it is new, lead levels rise to potentially harmful levels as it gets older, said Deputy Atty. Gen. Dennis A. Ragen, the state’s lead attorney on the lawsuit.

“As it ages, it forms more dust,” he said, and could contain levels of lead that are more than 20 times what’s allowed by Proposition 65.

The state, Ragen said, is negotiating with the three companies and is optimistic that a legal settlement can be reached that requires the products to be reformulated so that no lead is used in the manufacturing.

Most companies targeted by Proposition 65, known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, are eager to change their products rather than be forced to sell them with a warning that they contain chemicals “known to the state of California” to cause cancer or birth defects.

“The bottom line is this is 2008. Why are you making something with lead deliberately put into it?” Ragen said. “You need to find some substitute to make the color stable.”

Beaulieu attorney Peter Farley says he hopes to reach a friendly settlement with California. He stressed, however, that his company makes only an indoor-outdoor type of product and does not sell artificial turf used on athletic fields and stadiums.

The state decided to take action against the three companies after it received a legal notice from an advocacy group, the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health, that it intended to file a private lawsuit on the lead warning issue against Beaulieu and other artificial-turf manufacturers.

“Our testing on products from dozens of companies shows that artificial turf can contain high amounts of lead that can easily come off onto children’s hands when they play on turf fields,” said Michael Green, the center’s executive director.

marc.lifsher@latimes.com

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  1. Good thing we don’t have Astro Turf in Ridgewood.

  2. It is no surprise that the state of California is suing a company doing business in the state. I am just wondering why someone thinks this has any relevance in Ridgewood or on this blog. According to the Ridgewood News, testing done on our field in NEW JERSEY showed “undetectable” levels of lead (less than 0.0025% of the allowable soil test standard and 0.0275% of the allowable wipe test standard). According to the agency, who conducted the tests, the levels of lead at Maple Park were “attributed to normal dust in the air.”

  3. Didn’t someone say you’d actually have to “eat” the turf? Yum.

  4. Yea…I was told that a 50lb child would need to eat 100lbs of the blades of turf before the child “might” need to worry about lead exposure (adults don’t have reason for concern). Does anyone think a 50lb child (4-5 year old) could eat 100lbs of ANYTHING? Absurd.

  5. Keep listening to the big companies. It’s not like they’ve already lied to us. The state found that it is absorbed by the stomach, after they said it wasn’t. This is not the only lead they will be getting in a day and each child absorbs more or less depending on how much fat, etc. is in their diet. Only the first 3 fields were AstroTurf. They’re going after the one who made all the newer closed fields now. No one has even calculated skin absorption or the dust inhaled. Let’s just spread this stuff everywhere. Remember that the limits mark actual poisoning. The effects on the brain begin at a much lower rate. Look at the warnings at consumerreports.org

  6. 12:25…

    I am not sure what point you are trying to make (your apparent sarcasm makes your intent unclear). Some of your comments are inaccurate. Lead can be absorbed by the stomach when ingested. In the case of the small amounts of lead in the colored dye, which is encapsulated in the fibers used in the latest generation of FieldTurf fields (Maple Field), several points must be kept in mind.

    First, as pointed out in an earlier post, while anything may be theoretically possible, in actual practice it would be impossible to consume enough of the fibers to reach a level of lead exposure that would approach a level of concern. Furthermore the fibers are not loose and are not easily removable from the field in any quantity. The amount of fibers needed to reach 100lbs is hundreds of square feet of turf. One would need to mow the turf with a lawn mower and and collect the cuttings in a bag and then proceed to eat the clippings.

    Secondly, in the unrealistic event that a massive amount of turf is consumed by a small child, the amount lead contained in the fibers is “virtually undetectable” and is encapsulated in the fiber. Thus, it is widely concluded that the fibers would pass through the digestive system too quickly for any lead to be absorbed by the child’s stomach. Keep in mind, the the state of NJ declared that lead exposure through ingestion may only be a concern for children under 50lbs and (on designs like FieldTurf’s) skin contact with the surface posed no apparent risk.

    Thirdly, the manufacturers have been very open and and cooperative on this matter. The EPA has even partnered with FieldTurf (the manufacturer of the field at Maple Park). Each manufacturer uses a slightly different design and each manufacturer’s product must be evaluated on its own merit. Blanket statements like that made by California Deputy Atty. Gen. Dennis A. Ragen… “as it (the turf fiber) ages, it forms more dust and could contain levels of lead that are more than 20 times what’s allowed by Proposition 65”, are misinformed and highly misleading. The fact is that several manufacturers have proactively sought to source dyes that contain no lead in recent years. The levels of lead on newer fields is often more attributable to normal dust in the air than dye in the fibers. Such was the case in recent testing at Maple Field, which is now a couple of years old.

    Finally, your statement that “no one has even calculated skin absorption or the dust inhaled” is false. There are many studies on the rate of lead absorption through direct contact with the skin and the lead particulate inhalation. It is partially from this data that acceptable EPA and HUD testing standards were adopted. Since lead particulate can be found in the air we breathe every day, the question is how these turf products compare to the acceptable safety standards that have been established. This is the reason such standards were established. In our case in Ridgewood, the field at Maple Park raises no more concern over lead exposure than the average person’s back yard in the Village.

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