Study says turf fields don’t contain harmful levels of lead

There’s no need to worry. The new turf playing field at Federal Way Memorial Stadium is safe for kids, according to a report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The commission evaluated synthetic athletic surfaces after lead was detected on some fields, raising worry about exposure to children. But the commission said no tested field released amounts of lead that would be harmful.

“A variety of artificial turf products were evaluated for risk exposure to lead and the bottom line is parents should not be concerned about harmful levels of lead in artificial turf,” said Julie Vallese, a commission spokeswoman. “Go out and play.”

The commission said its study showed newer fields, like the one installed at Federal Way Memorial Stadium this summer, had no lead or generally had the lowest lead levels. Although small amounts of lead were detected on the surface of some older fields, none of these tested fields released amounts of lead that would be harmful.

As an overall guideline, the commission recommends young children wash their hands after playing outside, especially before eating.

The new Field-Turf surface at Federal Way Memorial Stadium is a much softer, grass-like material that is used at all of the other high school stadiums around the South Puget Sound League, as well as places like Husky Stadium and Qwest Field.

The old Memorial Stadium turf was nearly 15 years old and not as forgiving as the new Field-Turf.

The new field, along with track and other improvements, including earthquake reinforcement, paving of the facility’s parking lot and the installation of new lighting, were paid for by the passage of a massive $149 million construction bond last May in Federal Way.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s report followed New Jersey health officials’ finding unacceptably high lead levels in some synthetic surfaces.

New Jersey health officials first discovered elevated lead levels at an athletic field in Newark last fall, then found similarly high levels in two other nylon-based fields.

A follow-up test showed the lead found on New Jersey’s turf fields could be absorbed by humans, but the state said the lead levels were not high enough to cause poisoning to people who play on the fields.

All three New Jersey fields were ripped up and replaced.

Turf manufacturers have insisted their products are safe.

Rick Doyle, president of the Synthetic Turf Council, an industry trade group, has said the lead in turf is encapsulated in the blades and neither leaches out nor becomes airborne.

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