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Lead Chromate in Synthetic Turf, Though Safe for Kids per CPSC, was Discontinued in 2009

Friday, March 20, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Terrie Ward, STC Marketing & Education Director
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Our position remains that synthetic turf is safe. Here is a timeline that chronicles the prior use of insoluble lead chromate in the pigment formulations used to color synthetic turf fibers, a practice that was discontinued in 2009.

When the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) announced on April 14, 2008 that a few synthetic turf sports fields contained elevated levels of lead, the Synthetic Turf Council and the synthetic turf industry took the following actions to respond responsibly and urgently to the public’s uncertainty about the safety of synthetic turf.

  • Lead specialists in epidemiology and toxicity were hired to conduct numerous tests on turf of all types and ages, and met with officials from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services.  The scientists, test results, and finally on July 30, 2008, the CPSC Staff Report all confirm that the lead used to provide colorfastness to the pigment in synthetic turf is not a risk to children or anyone.  The reason is that the lead chromate is insoluble and encapsulated in plastic to prevent it from being absorbed by the body, or released into the environment.  According to calculations made in 2008 by forensic toxicologist at Aegis Sciences Corporation, 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 level.  The CPSC’s statement of safety, ‘young children are not at risk from exposure to lead in these fields,” applies to all synthetic turf, regardless of its lead content level;
  • The industry began working with pigment manufacturers to develop pigments for synthetic turf that did not contain lead chromate, but would meet the industry’s rigorous standards for colorfastness and performance.  On July 30, 2008, the STC announced that its members that manufacture synthetic turf fibers had voluntarily agreed to reduce the amount of lead chromate in the pigments to the same level and according to the same timetable as Congress was imposing by new legislation on all children’s products. 

In fact, the industry eliminated the use of lead chromate in synthetic turf in 2009, well ahead of Congress’s final deadline for the toy industry.

There is incidental lead in crumb rubber – test results will typically show lead levels between “undetectable” and 50 ppm, compared to the federal standard for toys of 100 ppm and the California standard of 50 ppm.

To put this subject into context: trace amounts of lead are all around us, and in everyday household products. What’s important is ensuring that quantities of lead that might be harmful to health cannot be absorbed into the body. Lead chromate is overseen by the EPA and regulated by OSHA. It is encapsulated in nylon, polyethylene, and polypropylene fibers that tests confirm prevent its release into the human body and the environment.

The Synthetic Turf Council and the synthetic turf industry take very seriously the health, safety, and welfare of the millions of athletes and children that play every day on resilient, high performance synthetic turf sports fields and playgrounds. There can always be more research done, and the STC supports any future opportunities for independent, science-based research.

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