June 20, 2008

CDC: Turf Fields Linked To Lead Dust

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has announced that artificial turf used for playing fields may contain potentially unhealthy levels of lead dust.

The CDC recommended on Thursday that any field containing worn or faded turf blades that are made of nylon fibers should be tested for lead.

The announcement comes in response to recent tests conducted by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) of artificial turf playing fields in that state.

"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," said the agency.

"Tests of artificial turf fields made with only polyethylene fibers showed that these fields contained very low levels of lead."

New Jersey epidemiologist Dr. Eddy Bresnitz said the lead levels were not high enough to cause poisoning in people who play on the fields. However, he said the levels could cause more damage in children less than 6 years old, because children absorb lead more easily.

New Jersey state health authorities stumbled onto the lead while investigating whether runoff from a scrap-metal operation in Newark had contaminated an adjacent playing field.

Pigment containing lead chromate is used in some surfaces to make the grass green and hold its color in sunlight. However, it is hard to determine how much of the pigment is used in the turf.

Additional tests are currently in progress to determine the absorption of lead from the nylon blades.

The New Jersey Health Department found lead in three nylon fields it tested, but in none of the 10 polyethylene surfaces it examined. Three of those fields were voluntarily replaced.

State authorities requested more comprehensive testing on a federal level, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission agreed. The agency is looking into the possible health hazards of lead in artificial turf installed at schools, parks and stadiums across the country.

The CDC admitted that it is unsure about the potential risks of exposure to the dust from the turf, but it does recommend that field managers use dust-suppression measures such as watering down the fields.

The CDC also recommends thoroughly washing hands and showering immediately after being exposed to the turf fields.


On the Net:

CDC - Potential Exposure to Lead in Artificial Turf