Settlement reached to remove lead from turf


Like the artificial turf at hundreds of schools and daycare centers across the state, the soccer field at San Francisco's Mission Recreation Center has dangerously high lead levels. Now, it could soon be replaced by the company that made it - Field Turf.

In a settlement with the California attorney general's office, Field Turf and Beaulieu Group -- two of the nation's biggest makers and installers of artificial turf -- agreed to reformulate their products to contain almost no lead and to either replace older turf for free or at a discount.

"We're just really pleased that these big companies have stepped up to the plate to try to really take care of the problem," says Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health.

Cox says the lead helps give the turf its color and as the turf ages and breaks down, the lead is released in a dust that can then be ingested. Children are most vulnerable to it.

Right now the federal standard for lead in children's products is 300 ppm, next year it drops to 100. The Mission Rec Center field tests at 17,000 ppm.

Washing hands can offer some protection. Gilbert Baustista, 14, and his 9-year-old brother play often on the rec center field.

When asked if Bautista goes home and washes his hands, he says, "No, only when our mom tells us to."

"People should know that not all artificial turf has lead in it. And so just because you have a field at your school or park doesn't necessarily mean it's leady," says Cox.

Cox doesn't know how many recreation centers, schools and daycares across the state might be eligible for replacements, but she thinks it's in the hundreds. The settlement includes funding for outreach to try to identify them.

If you're concerned about a school or field in your community, you can call or contact CEH for free lead screening at 510-655-3900 or by email at

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