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AstroTurf will get the lead out

The manufacturer settles an environmental lawsuit with California over lead used to keep the artificial turf green. AstroTurf and other turf-makers insist their product is safe in California.

August 15, 2009|Marc Lifsher

SACRAMENTO — The company that makes AstroTurf, a pioneering brand of artificial grass, has settled an environmental lawsuit with the state of California, agreeing to eliminate almost all lead from its product used on playing fields and residential backyards.

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown announced the agreement Friday in the 2008 suit against Dalton, Ga.-based AstroTurf and other makers of synthetic turf filed under California's Proposition 65 law.

The proposition, approved by voters in 1986, requires products to carry warning labels if they contain chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or birth defects.

Under the agreement, AstroTurf is to reformulate its products to reduce the quantity of lead.

Lead has been used to keep green colors from fading.

All three companies sued by Brown maintain that all artificial turf sold in California is safe.

The attorney general's office said that before filing the lawsuit it found excessive lead levels in some samples of artificial turf made by the three companies.

People can ingest harmful levels of lead by absorbing it through the skin or rubbing the synthetic grass and then touching food or their mouths, the suit said.

Older AstroTurf tends to have higher levels of lead, the attorney general argued.

"As schools and day care centers replace grass with artificial turf, extreme care must be taken to minimize lead exposure," Brown said in a statement.

"This agreement is the first of its kind and will help make playgrounds and ball fields safe for our children."

In the settlement, AstroTurf said it would pay $60,000 for testing of artificial playing fields at day care centers, schools and public facilities, the state said.

AstroTurf also is to send warnings to California customers who bought artificial grass in the last five years and create a website to provide information on safe maintenance and testing procedures.

AstroTurf will pay $170,000 in civil penalties, grants and attorney fees as part of the agreement with Brown and two other plaintiffs, Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich and Solano County Dist. Atty. David W. Paulson.

Two other companies named in the lawsuit, Beaulieu Group of Dalton, Ga., and FieldTurf USA Inc. of Calhoun, Ga., have not settled but are in talks with the attorney general's office. Beaulieu said it voluntarily has reformulated its turf products.

California decided to take action against the three companies after it received a legal notice from an advocacy group, Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health, that it intended to file a private lawsuit on the lead-warning issue.

Michael Green, the center's executive director, said, "Today's agreement with AstroTurf sets a strong standard for other companies who have not yet agreed to eliminate lead risks to children from turf."

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marc.lifsher@latimes.com

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