Astroturf Agrees to Eliminate Lead Threats to Children

Oakland, CA-The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) today welcomed an agreement by AstroTurf that sets the first-ever legally binding rules to end lead threats to children from artificial turf. The agreement is the first following from a CEH investigation of high levels of lead found in turf from dozens of artificial turf makers

“Today’s settlement with AstroTurf sets a strong standard for other companies who have not yet agreed to eliminate lead risks to children from turf,” said CEH Executive Director Michael Green. “The turf industry is on notice that lead is unnecessary and has no place in playing fields for children. We applaud AstroTurf for taking this industry-leading step.” AstroTurf was the first turf company to meet with CEH after the nonprofit notified turf makers of the lead problem and eagerly pursued a resolution.

CEH first notified the Attorney General in June 2008 about high levels of lead in products by AstroTurf and other turf makers. The Attorney General, the L.A. City Attorney and the Solano County DA filed suit against AstroTurf and other turf makers in September 2008, and finalized the legal settlement with the company today. Since June 2008, CEH has investigated dozens of other turf varieties and has filed suit against Shaw Industries, Synthetic Turf International, and the Beaulieu Group (this last in conjunction with the Attorney General).

The nonprofits’ months-long investigation found high lead levels in turf from Home Depot, Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH), Ace Hardware and Lowe’s, as well as from carpet retailers, online marketers, Bay Area turf installers, and from turf obtained from dozens of pre-schools, daycares, school districts and individuals. The CEH testing found high lead levels in brand-new turf and in older turf installations.

The AstroTurf agreement today requires the company to limit lead in its products to no more than 100 parts per million (ppm), and to strengthen that limit to 50 ppm by June 15, 2010. The settlement also calls on the company to offer free turf replacement to any California school, public playground, public playing field or licensed day care facility that has older, lead-tainted AstroTurf that was installed between 2001 and 2006. AstroTurf will also pay the state $30,000 for research into potentially hazardous chemicals in infill products used in some turf installations.

Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause learning disorders, brain and nerve damage, hearing problems, stunted growth, and digestive problems. Scientists are increasingly concerned that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for young children. Children playing on artificial grass can be exposed when lead from turf wipes off onto their hands (from hand-to-mouth behaviors), and young children may be more at risk since they are more likely to chew on turf material. Children can also be exposed when turf ages and releases lead-tainted dust. Independent testing commissioned by CEH has consistently found that when turf contains high levels of lead, the lead can come off of turf at levels that exceed California consumer protection standards.

CEH has previously uncovered lead and other toxic health threats to children from toys, vinyl baby bibs, children’s jewelry, wood playground structures, and many other products. CEH has a twelve-year track record of protecting children from hidden health hazards in consumer products and protecting communities from hazards related to toxic pollution. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices.

See the CEH Report on lead in turf, “Not Really Greener,” for more information.