Monday, July 19, 2010

Artificial Turf Suit Settled By California AG by Geoffrey Croft - A Walk in the Park

California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown announced on Friday that it had settled a lawsuit against the final two artificial turf companies it had sued in order to reduce children's lead exposure in artificial turf fields.

On September 3, 2008, the Attorney General, and the Los Angeles City Attorney and the Solano County District Attorney sued three artificial turf companies - Field Turf, USA, AstroTurf, LLC and Beaulieu, LLC - for violating Proposition 65 the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 and for unlawful business practices. The complaint alleged that the defendants failed to provide clear and reasonable warnings that their artificial turf products contain lead, and that use of, and contact with, those products resulted in exposure to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and reproductive harm.

The complaint further alleged that under Proposition 65,” businesses must provide persons with a “clear and reasonable warning” before exposing individuals to these chemicals, and accused the defendants failing to do so. The complaint also alleged that these acts constitute unlawful acts in violation of the Unfair Competition Law.

The settlement requires Georgia-based Beaulieu, LLC, the country's largest supplier of artificial turf to retailers, and Field Turf, USA, the nation's largest maker and installer of artificial turf fields to pay $285,000 and $212,500 in civil penalties respectively and to reformulate their products to reduce lead levels to negligible amounts.

The agreement follows a
landmark settlement last year with AstroTurf, LLC. Collectively, the three companies control most of the artificial turf market, and their settlements with Brown's office establish the nation's first enforceable standards applicable to lead in artificial turf.

Brown brought the case in 2008 against these companies for excessive lead levels after testing by the Center for Environmental Health found high concentrations of lead in their products. Brown's office confirmed these findings in independent tests.

Yesterday's settlement requires Beaulieu and FieldTurf to change their products so that they contain less than 50 parts per million lead. Lab results found some artificial turf products with more than 5,000 parts per million, which is more than 10 times state and federal guidelines for content in children's products. Lead is added to the products to keep colors vibrant.

"There is no safe exposure to lead," Attorney General Brown said in a statement. "In lengthy or high exposures, it is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines and kidneys. Since excessive exposure can interfere with development of the nervous system, it is particularly dangerous in children and can cause permanent learning and behavior disorders.
Lead in artificial turf usually enters the human body hand-to-mouth. Children playing on it get lead onto their hands and stick them into their mouths. Hand washing is a good way of reducing exposure."
"Because schools, public parks and daycare centers use artificial turf, it's critical that we minimize the amount of lead it contains," Attorney General Brown continued. "Today's agreement will get the lead out of artificial turf in playgrounds and ball fields around the state."
Proposition 65 was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986 to protect California citizens and the State's drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals.
In May of 2008, the California Senate passed Senator Abel Maldonado’s bill for a statewide study to examine both the environmental and public health impacts of synthetic grass in comparison to natural grass.
Unlike California, New York State does not have the same protections. New York State has refused to enact any artificial turf legislation including a law which would require testing.
Dozens of fields in New York City have been discovered to contain levels of lead. In December 2008, the Parks Department was forced to close Thomas Jefferson Field in East Harlem after the City discovered lead levels up to four times greater than those allowed in soil.
Artificial turf fields from ground up tires have been discovered to contain as many as 49 different chemicals, including a number which are carcinogenic. The fields also reach temperatures greater than 170 degrees. Environmental groups and some elected officials have called on the City to adopt a moratorium on the installation of any new fields until a protocol can be established and variety of health tests can be performed on existing fields. So far the City Council has resisted such measures. The City recently passed legislation to create a nine-member Mayorally controlled advisory committee to review any new materials being proposed for artificial turf fields and make suggestions for alternative materials. The committee's recommendations will be non-binding but will be posted online.
Reacting to the Attorney General settlement, Nancy Alderman, President of Environment and Human Health said these actions did not go far enough to protect the public.
"....the State of California has dealt with the lead that is often found in the green fibers of artificial turf to keep the green color vibrant - but they did nothing to deal with the chemicals and heavy metals found in the ground-up rubber tire in-fill. There are enormous amounts of zinc in the used rubber tire crumb in-fill as well as other harmful chemicals such as carbon black and benzene that are also often found."

The nation's largest artificial turf supplier and manufacturer have agreed to eliminate nearly all lead from their products as part of an agreement to settle charges that they violated California's Proposition 65 law by not including warning labels, state officials said Friday.
Beaulieu Group and FieldTurf USA Inc., both based in Georgia, had been charged with the violation in 2008 by the California attorney general, Los Angeles city attorney and the Solano County district attorney. Their products are used at public facilities, such as schools.
As part of the settlement, Beaulieu — a supplier of the turf — additionally agreed to pay for testing the lead content in its products purchased after October 2004 and installed at schools, day-care facilities and public playgrounds in the state, said California Deputy Atty. Gen. Dennis Ragen. The company is required to replace any turf that tests high in lead.
Manufacturer FieldTurf agreed to pay for testing of its products installed before November 2003 at the same kind of public facilities. It will offer discounts to replace turf found to have high lead content.
Neither company agreed to test or replace products bought by consumers.
Also in the settlement: Beaulieu will pay $285,000 and FieldTurf will pay $212,500 in civil penalties, Ragen said.

Read More:
Beaulieu Group and FieldTurf USA agree to eliminate nearly all lead from their
products to settle charges that they violated California's Proposition 65
The Los Angels Times - July 16, 2010 - By Nathan Olivarez-Giles