A year after the Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed artificial turf fields safe for children the Environmental Protection Agency is taking another look at the issue.
The EPA has been testing air and turf from artificial turf fields and playgrounds that use recycled tires, according to an Associated Press report.
In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation wrapped up similar testing and found no significant health threat from these surfaces (pdf) -- results the turf industry trumpeted.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission study centered on lead, which it found in playing surfaces and asked manufacturers to remove -- but which it did not call a hazard.
The issue of lead, which can cause permanent brain damage or even death at certain exposure levels, in artificial turf athletic fields emerged as an issue in many communities where new turf fields had been proposed, or older fields were deteriorating. Lead is found in some of the pigments used to make turf green. Communities across the U.S. have become concerned in recent years that waste tires used to manufacture playing surfaces and fields may be laced with other heavy metals or other potentially toxic substances that children can be exposed to as fields deteriorate, or as children fall and scrape their skin during play.
The commission's analysis found no or low levels of lead in new fields, and higher levels in older fields. But even older fields posed no risk to even young children, according to the commission. The commission assumed that children would be exposed if lead from a deteriorating field got on children's hands, and then children put their hands in their mouths.
Despite its determination that there is no significant risk, the CPSC is recommending that the industry develop and adhere to voluntary standards that would "preclude the use of lead in future products."
The CPSC also recommends that children wash their hands after playing outside.
Children up to and through the age of six are most susceptible to problems associated with exposure to lead because their brains and nervous systems are still rapidly developing. Lead can interrupt normal development, leading to irreversible brain damage, lowered IQ, behavioral problems and even a greater risk of violence.
Many parents may remain unconvinced by the CPSC's assurance that lead poses no risk, given that the agency is simultaneously recommending that parents take steps to reduce their children's exposure to lead from athletic playing fields and that manufacturers stop using lead.
One step parents can take to limit damage from lead exposure -- whatever its source -- is to ensure their kids eat a nutritious diet, rich in calcium and iron. Calcium and iron (along with Vitamin C to help absorb the iron) help the body process lead without absorbing it, minimizing the risk from exposure. The Daily Green's Lead Poisoning Prevention Diet compiles those ingredients most rich in those three key nutrients, and couples each with delicious recipes.
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