NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Legal Newsline)-Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study the impact of synthetic turf athletic fields on health and the environment.
"Such potential health risks are national in scope," Blumenthal and fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro wrote in a joint letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.
On Thursday, the EPA agreed to investigate the special ground cover, which is gaining popularity because, among other things, it requires less maintenance and water. But the turf made of polyethylene has been found to contain only low or undetectable levels of lead.
"The EPA should complete this research as quickly as possible because the health risks are potentially urgent as children play every day on these fields across America, and communities make profoundly far-reaching decisions about building new ones," Blumenthal said in a statement.
His and DeLauro's request came on the heels of an April 11 request from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services for a safety assessment on the special turf by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Two athletic fields in New Jersey have been closed after high lead levels were found in turf fibers.
In their letter this week, Blumenthal and DeLauro noted that the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that potentially toxic volatile chemicals migrate under relatively mild conditions from the recycled rubber granules used on many of the fields.
"We must avoid turf wars with more scientific study," Blumenthal said. "Turf is creating a clamor of questions that must be addressed."
In California, Attorney General Jerry Brown was asked last month to determine whether artificial turf fields should have lead warning signs to comply with a state law.
The request was made by state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria. He has introduced legislation that would have state health officials investigate the safety and environmental effects of synthetic playing fields.
Maldonado wants to know whether the field operators must post warning signs to comply with Proposition 65, the 1986 voter-approved state law that requires public notice of the presence of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects.
For its part, the Synthetic Turf Council has said the special fields are safe and pose no risk to public health.
In an earlier statement, the Atlanta-based trade group said reports of dangers associated with synthetic fields have not been supported by laboratory evidence.
"There is no scientific evidence of a health risk for children or adults based on recent test results and current knowledge of the chemical structure of aged synthetic turf products," said two scientists who performed an evaluation for the group.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.