Parents of athletes in Liverpool and North Syracuse can breathe a little easier. A federal agency recently found that children are not at risk from lead exposure in artificial turf fields.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a report last week detailing its evaluation of 40 turf samples from across the country. The samples were all tested in the CPSC’s lab in Maryland. The tests revealed that the lead content was not high enough to cause harm to children playing on the fields.
“Lead is present in the pigments of some synthetic turf products to give the turf its various colors,” the report stated. “Staff recognizes that some conditions such as age, weathering, exposure to sunlight, and wear and tear might change the amount of lead that could be released from the turf. As turf is used during athletics or play and exposed over time to sunlight, heat and other weather conditions, the surface of the turf may start to become worn and small particles of the lead-containing synthetic grass fibers might be released. The staff considered in the evaluation that particles on a child’s hand transferred to his/her mouth would be the most likely route of exposure and determined young children would not be at risk.”
Two local fields were closed this spring after lead was found in two New Jersey fields made of the same turf material. Liverpool and North Syracuse both declared their turf fields off-limits after finding similar lead levels.
Now that the fields have been cleared, North Syracuse Assistant Superintendent for Management Services Wayne Bleau said he believes the field should be reopened in the coming weeks.
“We’ll be going to the board of education at their Aug. 11 meeting and recommending that we open it back up,” Bleau said. “I’d like to have it open to everyone, no restrictions, Aug. 12.”
Bleau said tests of the field revealed it to be in excellent condition.
“We did field tests on the turf and found it to be the right hardness,” he said. “You don’t want it to be too hard, because athletes can get hurt if they fall, but you don’t want it to be too soft, because athletes can get their foot caught or turn an ankle. Ours was in great shape, which is great after 10 years.”
In Liverpool, however, that’s not the case. Liverpool’s stadium has been taken offline because of drainage issues under the field, which have caused spots to sink and created a safety hazard.
While the decision doesn’t mean the turf will be open for play, it may mean it can be used for practice. On July 22, because of the lead issue, the school board declared the turf to be an emergency situation; the designation would have allowed the district to receive state money to roll up the turf carpet so that it could begin making repairs on the track. Now, the board president said, the designation isn’t necessary.
“We’ll be considering a resolution at our next board meeting [Tuesday Aug. 5] to rescind the emergency declaration,” said J. Mark Lawson. “Hopefully this means that we’ll not only be able to fast-track the repairs on the track and field, but we’ll also be able to get the PE classes back on the turf and open it up for some practices.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.