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How safe is artificial turf? Vancouver Park Board commissioner calls for detailed examination

Last Updated Sep 13, 2019 at 11:13 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

A Vancouver Park Board commissioner is calling for a closer study of artificial turf, citing concerns about lead levels

Commissioner John Irwin says people have come to him with evidence of lead in artificial turf fields' rubber pellets

The issue came up in 2016 and VCH found there was no public health reason for halting use of artificial turf

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – They’ve been replacing natural grass fields throughout our region — but how safe are artificial turf alternatives?

A Vancouver Park Board commissioner wants to examine that issue more closely, after concerned citizens came to the board with lab findings indicating the presence of lead in local fields.

While that lead level, found in the field’s’ rubber pellets, is below what’s considered a health risk according to a 2016 letter from Vancouver Coastal Health, Commissioner John Irwin is putting forward a motion next week to look into it.

“You know, that flagged that this was an area of concern for us and so I’m recommending that we do our own independent testing. Start to look for alternatives like, apparently there’s like a coconut kind of fibre,” he explains.

“So in my opinion, if we can move to a material that gets a bunch of this lead out, and there are alternatives, that that’s probably what we want to do,” Irwin adds. “In the meantime, we need to find out how much lead is there and how we mitigate the impacts on both humans and other species.”

The issue is being taken so seriously in California, the Environmental Protection Agency is studying it.

“They’re supposed to have released results of the chemicals in crumb rubber infill, and they’re supposed to look at exposure and health impacts and stuff like that,” Irwin explains.

He notes some researchers are “sounding the alarm” and saying children shouldn’t be exposed to the level of lead found in some turfs.

Irwin’s motion would not see artificial turf around the city be immediately replaced.

“Also, the motion, if it goes through as it stands, is directing staff to clean and remediate any artificial turf areas where rubber crumb is dispersing into either soils or storm water systems,” he says. “That would mean they’d have to go and try to clean it up around the edges and have staff come by and sweep the area regularly.”

Irwin would also like to see something done to protect the storm water system.

“We could probably put some kind of material under the drain… put a mesh under the storm drain, and it just catches stuff from going down into the trap.”

The motion goes before the Park Board on Monday.