EPA retracts synthetic turf safety assurances

Following a complaint from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reconsidered its position on artificial turf. The agency accepts it has new concerns about unexplored chemical exposure to more than 30 compounds found in synthetic shredded tire turf, including arsenic, lead, cobalt, mercury and trichloroethylene.

In March last year PEER demanded EPA retract its “Low Level of Concern” statement believing the 2009 study on which it was based was a 'flawed and limited' violation of federal information quality standards. Although the EPA has refused the retraction its Acting Assistant Administrator for Research and Development Lek Kadeli responded by ordering further research and the agency has accepted the original study was 'limited' in a new posting.

EPA's only previous artificial turf study took air and surface samples from three US sports pitches and from one playground. The testing considered only one chemical on new turf below levels of activity typical of athletic fields or playgrounds and ignored the influence of heat in chemical release.

The PEER complaint was filed under the Data Quality Act which requires information distributed by federal agencies be complete, objective and reliable. 

PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch welcomed the climb down, “We are gratified that EPA has taken this small and grudging step toward a more responsible position reflecting synthetic turf exposure risks. EPA now admits that it has no idea about the extent of chemical exposure to children and athletes playing on these surfaces.” Ruch continued: “By blindly promoting so-called ‘beneficial’ reuse of tire crumbs and other toxic industrial wastes, EPA has shirked its public health duties."

Meanwhile in response to another PEER complaint, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has ordered an enforcement review of marketing of artificial turf products for children because the agency has found lead levels in artificial sports fields above statutory limits in children’s products.