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Let the Kids Play

A.U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report clear synthetic turf fields from lead dangers.  Which means play can continue on the artificial surfaces like the ones at Oakdale High School.
A.U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report clear synthetic turf fields from lead dangers. Which means play can continue on the artificial surfaces like the ones at Oakdale High School. Modesto Bee

TRENTON, N.J. -- Children aren't at risk for lead exposure from synthetic athletic fields, according to a report Wednesday from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The commission evaluated synthetic athletic fields after lead was detected on some New Jersey fields, raising worry about exposure to children.

But the commission said no tested field released amounts of lead that would be harmful.

The commission said the study showed newer fields had no lead or generally had the lowest leads levels.

Locally, seven high schools have artificial turf fields -- six of them football fields. Lincoln High of Stockton installed artificial turf at Spanos Stadium in 2003. Last year, Patterson and Downey installed artificial turf. This year, Atwater is installing artificial turf on Falcon Field; it will be completed by mid-August.

"A variety of artificial turf products were evaluated for risk exposure to lead and the bottom line is parents should not be concerned about harmful levels of lead in artificial turf," said Julie Vallese, a commission spokeswoman. "Go out and play."

While the evaluation found no harmful lead levels, the commission is asking that voluntary standards be developed for synthetic turf to preclude the use of lead in future products.

Although small amounts of lead were detected on the surface of some older fields, none of these tested fields released amounts of lead that would be harmful to children.

Lead is present in some synthetic turf products to give the turf its various colors, but can cause brain damage and other illnesses, particularly in children.

Conditions such as age, weathering, exposure to sunlight and wear and tear may change the amount of lead that could be released from the turf, and the commission considered particles on a child's hand, then transferred to their mouth, would be the most likely route of exposure.

Still, it determined young children wouldn't be at risk.

As an overall guideline, the commission recommends young children wash their hands after playing outside, especially before eating.

A California environmental watchdog group, the Center for Environmental Health, reported last month that it found excessive amounts of lead in several brands of artificial turf. It warned some of the biggest manufacturers and sellers that it would sue unless they recall or reformulate their products.

It was not convinced by the commission's findings.

"My quick take is that the CPSC study is fatally flawed and we're going to continue to pursue our case because lead is a threat to children playing on artificial field," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman for the center.

Turf manufacturers have insisted their products are safe.

Rick Doyle, president of the Synthetic Turf Council, an industry trade group, has said the lead in turf is encapsulated in the blades and neither leaches out nor becomes airborne.

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