ABC's Artificial Turf Scare: 'Virtually a Hazardous Waste Dump'

     Another network newscast and guess what – something else to be afraid of.


     This time, it’s a “turf war.” ABC’s April 17 “World News with Charles Gibson” took a look at dangers of athletic fields with artificial turf in “the American landscape” and warned viewers of the potential exposure to lead.


      “It’s become part of the American landscape – synthetic turf, durable and soft,” ABC correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi said. “It’s everywhere, from stadiums to neighborhood soccer fields. But now, questions over whether those fields are safe. Health officials in New Jersey randomly tested synthetic turf fields across the state. Two of the fields had lead levels so high they closed them.”


     The reports of lead have caused alarm, even setting off an outrageous claim by one New Jersey mother.


     “We’ve got our children playing in what’s virtually a hazardous waste dump, I think,” parent Patricia Taylor said to “World News.”


      According to the report, the nylon in the turf breaks down overtime and then turns to dust that you can inhale or that can be ingested. It gets on your hands, or your face gets dirty.


     But, in a press release posted online on April 15, the Synthetic Turf Council explained the lead content in the turf material poses no health risk:


“The pigment used to color the nylon fiber contains lead chromate, a component used to extend the yarn color lifespan. Lead chromate is a highly insoluble compound with extremely low bioavailability, which is diluted, extruded with resins and microencapsulated within the nylon fiber. In fact, OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] requires no protective measures when handling the turf fibers.


Extremely low bioavailability means that even if the compound were to be ingested, it is very difficult for the compound to be absorbed within the body. There is no known evidence that this poses any health risk.”


     And despite the fields being called “a hazardous waste dump,” the Synthetic Turf Council told “World News” there have never been any reports of ill-effects caused by turf.


     “The Synthetic Turf Council, which represents manufacturers, says in 40 years, not one person has ever reported ill-effects related to the material composition or the fibers,” Alfonsi added. “They maintain their products are safe.”


     ABC News was responsible for two of the nine worst business stories of the last 50 years according to an April 16 Business & Media Institute report. Those included an undercover Food Lion grocery store report broadcasted in 1992 on ABC’s “Primetime Live” that crossed the lines of ethical journalism and a the infamous Wendy’s report of a woman finding a severed finger in her chili in 2005 on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”