(NaturalNews) Certain varieties of artificial turf fields may expose children or adults to dangerous levels of lead, the New Jersey Health Department has warned.
Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause developmental or mental impairment, and is particularly dangerous to children and pregnant women.
The health department discovered the danger while conducting tests to see if a Newark children's park was being contaminated by a nearby industrial site. To the surprise of health officials, it turned out that lead was coming from the park's own artificial turf lawn.
Many artificial turfs are made with lead chromate, which helps the green pigment resist leaching by the sun. The disintegration of turf fibers causes the metal to be released as dust.
The Health Department soon discovered that at least two other fields were also emitting lead particles at levels eight to 10 times higher than those allowed in the soil, and it issued a nationwide alert.
Schools and parks across the country have responded with alarm, with many sending samples from their artificial turfs out for independent testing. The Montgomery Township High School in New Jersey has banned children under the age of seven from using its field. California State Senator Abel Maldonado has asked the state's attorney general to investigate whether warning signs should be placed on artificial turf fields.
California law requires that prominent warnings be posted if chemicals "known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity" are present.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched an investigation into whether the federal government should recall some varieties of turf. But at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., officials are not waiting for the study's findings. The college is proceeding with preexisting plans to replace its artificial turf.
"We've been assured the new one will have no lead in it," said capital-projects manager David Rabold. "And we will get that in writing."