Since the 1960s, artificial turf has been installed on sporting events fields across the nation. It was sold as a more durable and cost-effective alternative to grass. Early synthetic surfaces — such as the short-bladed AstroTurf — have given way in recent years to longer-bladed versions designed to be softer and help prevent injuries. In a recently article, USA Today reports that there are increasing concerns that some synthetic fields — particularly fraying AstroTurf surfaces that have been in place for years — are contaminated with lead and could pose a health hazard to children, athletes and others who use them. The threat of lead contamination in old turf has caused concern over the use of newer types of artificial turf.
These new surfaces often include bits of recycled tires — known as “crumb rubber” — among the turf blades to provide a cushioned surface. These surfaces have been installed at thousands of schools, public parks and indoor sports facilities across the country, and more installations are scheduled. The questions about both types of artificial turf have created ripples nationwide, prompting a federal investigation of artificial surfaces and raising anxiety among health specialists and elected officials, some of whom want to ban new installations until government agencies study the potential health risks and environmental hazards.
The EPA, along with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, has launched an investigation of artificial turf fields. The national investigation by the CPSC and the EPA will focus on all kinds of turf. The agency is collecting turf samples and expects to issue a report by early summer. The focus is on the risk to exposure from lead. There are 3,500 full-size, artificial fields in the USA, according to Rick Doyle, president of the Synthetic Turf Council, a trade group. Such turf accounts for 900 to 1,000 installations a year but does not include smaller surfaces such as practice fields and playgrounds. It will be interesting to see what the report concludes concerning this potential safety and health hazard.
Source: USA Today
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