Synthetic fields deemed safe for kids

July 30, 2008 7:13:45 PM PDT
There has been concern about artificial turf, popping up on thousands of school athletic fields around the county. In a report, the government addressed the issue of whether lead in fake grass could endanger children.

Across the Bay Area, counting down to the end of summer means ramping up to another year of athletics. Drake High in San Anselmo, are among many schools that have switched from grass to artificial turf.

"I would say that nine of months out of the year, this is the way to go," said Luis Quezada, a soccer coach.

Still, artificial turf has also been controversial with critics worried about lead in paint that makes some artificial turf green. It's been enough of a concern that the Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted a series of tests, and on Wednesday released the results.

"The synthetic turf either had no detectable lead, or would not expose hands to the levels of lead which would present a risk to children," said Joel Recht Ph.D., from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

However, the announcement does not end the debate. At the heart of it there is a question of how much exposure to lead is too much. Federal standards are more lenient than California's.

"So they're basically using an outdated lead level and saying, 'Well a little bit of lead never hurt anybody,'" said Charles Margules, with the Center for Environmental Health.

Margules' group tested samples, found them dangerous, and last month, filed suit against stores and manufacturers. The federal ruling changes none of that.

"Parents who have kids who play on artificial fields regularly, should be concerned," said Margules.

Regardless, communities continue to build them. At the Tamalpais Union High School District, George Baranoff told us there is no lead in the artificial field at drake, just rubber and polypropylene.

"I guess you can find something wrong with anything if you look hard enough," said Baranoff.

Despite the federal finding, he still hears from critics who like neither this field, nor a new one going up a few blocks away.

"Lead's a false issue. Lead is a Red Herring. The real issue has to do with cancer and has to do with poison. And just it doesn't have lead doesn't mean it doesn't have others," said Ford Greene with the San Anselmo Town Council.

The EPA has said it will investigate those 'other' elements. Until then, at least, there is a green light for play on artificially green fields.

"If anyone comes up with a legitimate issue for any of these fields, we would be more than happy to discuss it," said Baranoff.


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