Artificial grass is quickly growing in popularity as homeowners learn more about this low-water, low-maintenance alternative to conventional lawns. The benefits of choosing synthetic turf over natural grass include avoiding toxic pesticides and herbicides, saving water, and never again having to mow, edge, aerate or fertilize your lawn. These are some pretty enticing benefits, but many people still have concerns about whether or not artificial grass is safe for their families and pets. In particular, some folks are still not clear on whether or not manufactured lawns have unsafe levels of lead.
This is a good question and it is understandable that there would still be some confusion on this topic. First of all, we should all be concerned about excessive lead exposure, especially for our children. Lead exposure is connected to a variety of health concerns and symptoms, including nerve function impairment, peripheral neuropathy, kidney damage, reproductive system damage, cognitive impairment and behavioral issues. Increased lead exposure can occur from consuming contaminated food or water, playing in contaminated soil, breathing in air or dust with lead, or eating lead-based paint chips (Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry).
Knowing this, we clearly do not want our children – or adults – playing or spending time on surfaces or in areas that increase lead exposure above levels naturally found in our everyday environments.
So this leads us to the question: Does artificial grass have lead?
Does Artificial Grass Have Lead?
The synthetic turf products our professional installers use contain no detectable traces of lead or of any other RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) hazardous waste heavy metals.
Most of the concern over lead levels in synthetic turf began after two studies were conducted in 2007 and 2008. The 2007 study was conducted by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS), which tested artificial turf fields after finding lead in a field in Newark, New Jersey. Initially, the group tested 12 fields (after finding lead in the initial field tested) and found that two of these 12 fields contained lead at about 4,000 parts per million. This was significantly higher than soil lead levels considered safe in that state. Additional studies conducted by this group further found that dust from synthetic turf fields contained lead.
Following this study, the Center for Environmental Health tested about 50 artificial grass products that could be purchased in California in 2008. Out of these products, they found about 15 that contained lead at levels greater than 600 parts per million.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
“Information provided by the NJDHSS…and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) indicated that some of the fields with elevated lead in either dust and/or turf fiber samples were weathered and visibly dusty…The risk for harmful lead exposure is low from new fields with elevated lead levels in their turf fibers because the turf fibers are still intact and the lead is unlikely to be available for harmful exposures to occur.” (Centers for Disease Control)
All of these reports refer to studies conducted in or prior to 2008, which is crucial to understanding potential lead levels in artificial turf lawns and fields. The reason this is so important is that it was these reports that led to the Center for Environmental Health connecting with turf manufacturers to put agreements in place that place a strict limit on the level of lead allowed in artificial grass.
This means two things. First of all, it means that some synthetic turf installed prior to these 2008 agreements may contain harmful amounts of lead. Secondly, it means that you can now easily find manufactured lawn and field options that do not have unsafe levels of lead.
We want to be clear that this does not mean that all currently available synthetic turf is lead free. Reputable companies will not knowingly sell you an artificial grass product that contains harmful levels of lead; however, if you work with a company that provides lower-quality products, it is still possible that newly manufactured turf may contain lead.
This is why it is so important that you work with an ethical, reputable company when purchasing or installing fake grass.
How Can I Avoid Artificial Grass with Lead?
As mentioned above, one of the most important things you can do to avoid unsafe lead levels in artificial grass is to work with a reputable company that will not sell you a product they know to be potentially harmful.
When you are choosing an artificial grass installation company, ask them about lead levels in the products they offer. They should be able to answer this question. If not, that is not a good sign and you should keep looking for a company you can trust.
The next thing you can do to avoid the potential for increased lead exposure is to avoid crumb rubber infill. Crumb rubber infill is made from recycled tires. When these tires come from the United States, we can feel reassured that they do not contain harmful levels of lead; however, some crumb rubber is made from recycled tires that were manufactured in other countries. These foreign tires could have unsafe lead levels.
Install-It-Direct does not use crumb rubber infill.
If there is an artificial turf field at a school or park near your home and you are concerned about your child’s potential lead exposure, you can have the field tested. The first thing to do is to go to the Center for Environmental Health’s Lead Level in Artificial Turf Map. On this page, you can view a map of California showing turf fields they have tested, as well as a list of fields separated by County. They have already tested dozens of fields in San Diego County, Orange County and Riverside County, so you may be able to find out about lead levels in fields near you with no additional effort.
If you do not see the field you are concerned about on the list or do not live in California, you can send a sample to the Center for Environmental Health and they will test it for you. To have a sample tested, collect about 10 blades of the artificial grass, place them in a zip lock bag and mail the sample to 2201 Broadway Street, Suite 302, Oakland, California 94612. On the envelope, be sure to add “Attn: Matt” to help your sample get in the right hands faster.
Until you have the synthetic turf fields near your home tested, the Center for Environmental Health also has a flyer and safety video to help concerned people limit their potential for lead exposure.
Lead in Artificial Grass: Conclusion
The takeaway message here is that some older artificial grass fields that you or your children come in contact with at sports complexes or schools may contain lead. This may also be true of some manufactured grass fields that use crumb rubber infill made from foreign tires. Newer fields and residential lawns installed by reputable companies should not contain detectable traces of lead.
The synthetic turf products our professional installers use contain no detectable traces of lead and we do not use crumb rubber infill. To learn more about our synthetic turf products and to find the right solution for your landscaping improvement project, call Install-It-Direct today at (858) 925-3000.
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