Guilford study of artificial turf turns up no lead

Playing field ‘safe for normal use’

By Rachael Scarborough King
June 11, 2008

GUILFORD — Tests of the artificial turf playing field at the high school have shown no levels of dangerous lead, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella says.

The district did the testing in May, after the new field was installed last fall. On Monday, the board discussed tests for lead done by Mystic Air Quality Consultants.

There was no detectable level of lead in the fields, according to the report.

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said that the testing was mainly prompted by recent media reports on concerns about lead and chemicals in artificial turf.

“If there’s a problem, it’s obviously better to know about it than not know about it, and this report says that lead is not an issue,” he said.

Bloss said the report concluded that the “turf is safe for normal use in terms of lead.”

The town’s Standing Fields Committee also recently tested water runoff from the field for any chemicals. Committee member Ken Mulvey, who is also chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, said that the test turned up “a very minor finding of zinc” within recommended state guidelines.

Mulvey said the committee will further test this summer for any vapors that could rise from the field during warm weather. He added that officials looked at testing of the artificial turf they were using, which was made by FieldTurf, prior to installation.

“We were just interested to just reassure the people in Guilford that the product that had been installed is safe, not that we had been concerned that it wasn’t,” he said. “It’s a community field, there’s a lot of community use, and we just want to make sure that people feel safe.”

There will also be periodic testing of the field over its life, Mulvey added.

Recently, environmental groups have raised concerns about potential negative health effects from the artificial turf, which include chopped-up rubber. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, have called on the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the material.

In April, officials in New Jersey closed some fields over concerns about high levels of lead, according to news reports.

East Haven, Milford, Branford and several other Connecticut school districts also have artificial turf playing fields.

About 500 Guilford residents voted at a town meeting last June to install the new artificial field, although voters rejected a similar proposal at a referendum earlier last year. At the time, the cost of the field was estimated at more than $800,000, much of which was covered by private donations.

Bloss said that the field seems to be performing well and is “in constant use” so far.

“The feeling was that this generation of artificial turf could lead to much greater use because we have a shortage of fields,” he said. “The amount of time that you can use this type of field far exceeds the amount of time that you can reasonably use a natural turf field without permanently damaging it.”

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