Monica Luhar for KCET – Published May 7, 2015
An environmental whistleblower group is accusing a federal regulatory agency for relying on data from the artificial turf industry to make decisions about the safety of its products.
The findings from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility come just months after it filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. PEER released documents, PowerPoint presentations, and email correspondences that they say show how the federal agency has handled and reacted to questions concerning artificial turf, specifically crumb rubber made from recycled tires, which are said to carry chemicals that can harm children.
“These records depict a consumer watchdog which has learned to play dead too well,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch in a statement. “While industry gets unfettered access, consumer complaints about excess lead get the run-around before they are forgotten altogether.”
PEER has been requesting that the agency determine whether it should take enforcement action against companies selling artificial turf that are said to contain lead levels above legal limits and market their products for use by children.
To date, CSPS has not come out with a new position on artificial turf, according to Scott Wolfson, the agency’s communications director and senior adviser to the chairman.
Wolfson added that there is no industry reliance in evaluating products. “What’s important is there is no sign of CPSC today being influenced in either direction on the issue,” he told KCET. “There is no sign that we have relied on something to make an announcement one way or another. We are still open to receiving information from any source.”
Wolfson explained the agency’s commitment to transparency, as supported by its public meetings. He refuted the perception that his agency meets behind closed doors with industry representatives. “That is not true. We have a public calendar. When there are meetings from any entity that wants to meet with us to share their perspectives, it’s open.”
In January 2015, KCET’s “SoCal Connected” looked into the concerns of artificial turf at Los Angeles area schools and parks (a map of locations that use them can be seen here).
A California bill introduced in December seeks to temporarily make it harder to install artificial turf that uses crumb rubber on school and public fields the state to studies any potential adverse health impacts. SB 47, which is supported by PEER and a number of other groups, currently awaits a hearing on the State Senate floor.