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Product Liability

Synthetic Turf Lawsuits: Can Artificial Grass Cause Cancer?

This Alert Affects:

Individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer after spending an extended amount of time on artificial turf at sports fields, playgrounds and sports venues.

What's the Problem?
Synthetic turf contains mercury, lead, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, arsenic and other carcinogens. These substances have been linked to several types of cancer, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Who's At Risk?
It is believed that children who play sports, such as soccer, on artificial turf fields may be at the greatest risk for developing cancer.
What Is 'Crumb Rubber'?
"Crumb rubber" is used in artificial turf fields to fill the space between the grass blades. It is a form of recycled rubber made from automobile and truck tires. The EPA states that a number of materials, including lead and benzene, may be found in tires. Therefore, some believe that these same substances may also be present in artificial turf fields across the country.
Have Lawsuits Been Filed?
Yes – and three of the country's biggest manufacturers of artificial turf, Field Turf, AstroTurf LLC and Beaulieu Group, have already agreed to reduce the amount of lead in their products. This came after the California Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit alleging that the companies failed to warn the public about harmful substances in their artificial turf products. These lawsuits did not provide compensation to those injured as a result of exposure to synthetic turf.

Attorneys are investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been regularly exposed to artificial turf (such as on a soccer field or playground) and have been diagnosed with cancer. Several leading manufacturers have faced fines and legal action over claims that their products contain hazardous amounts of lead and other known carcinogens; however, the companies have yet to face action from those whose health may have been affected. In light of heightened concern over the health risks associated with synthetic turf, attorneys want to speak with anyone, including parents of young children and teens, who is suspicious about the link between turf exposure and a loved one’s cancer diagnosis.

Who’s At Risk?

Any child or adult who has spent an extended amount of time on artificial playing fields may have been exposed to lead and other carcinogens. Child athletes, especially high school soccer goalies, are thought to be particularly at risk for health problems related to artificial turf, as they are routinely in contact with the ground.   

Study Find Dangerous Amounts of Lead in Artificial Turf

The main reason artificial turf is particularly dangerous is because it contains “crumb rubber,” which is made of ground-up rubber tires and is used to fill space between the turf’s grass blades. According to the EPA, tires contain lead and a number of other potentially hazardous substances, leading many to believe that artificial turf products may also contain the same dangerous compounds and materials found in automobile and truck tires.  

In 2010, as part of a state investigation, artificial turf at The Mission Recreation Center in San Francisco was tested for lead levels. At the time, the California state standard for lead in children’s products (turf is classified as a children’s product since children frequently play on it) was 300 parts per million (ppm). The Mission Recreation Center’s field was found to contain 17,000 ppm, which meant that the turf contained a dangerously high level of lead. The California standard for lead ppm has since been lowered to only 60 ppm, making the recreation center’s turf more than 250 times the level now thought to be safe. Unfortunately, it is believed that such high levels of lead in sports fields across the country are not uncommon.

Companies Reduce Lead Use in Turf, But Thousands Still At Risk

In 2009 and 2010, Field Turf, AstroTurf LLC and Beaulieu Group faced legal action from the California Attorney General’s Office over allegations that they failed to warn the public about the lead in their products. As a result of a settlement, the turf manufacturers agreed to drastically reduce the use of lead in their products and to replace turf in fields considered to be unsafe; however, because this settlement only required the companies to replace unsafe turf in California, thousands of playgrounds, parks and sports fields across the country may still contain hazardous levels of lead.

A 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, states that:

“Tests by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) of artificial turf playing fields in that state found these fields contain potentially unhealthy levels of lead dust.”

A recent NBC News report also highlighted the scale of the problem:

“Artificial turf fields are now everywhere in the United States, from high schools to multi-million-dollar athletic complexes.”

While it’s long been known that artificial turf products contain lead and a number of toxic chemicals, it’s now believed that these substances can be released into the air if the turf breaks down. This can put individuals regularly exposed to synthetic turf at risk for inhaling or ingesting lead and other dangerous substances.   

A Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection study, for example, found a variety of compounds in the air above playing fields and parks where artificial turf was present.  The report noted that:

“Based upon the pattern of detection, it is considered likely that benzothiazole, acetone, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, butylated hydroxytoluene, naphthalenes and several other PAHs were field-related.”

Interested in learning more about these chemicals and their potential health risks? Use our interactive guide to artificial turf chemicals to see which compounds may be lurking in crumb rubber. 

What Can I Do?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a form of cancer, such as leukemia or lymphoma, after being exposed to artificial turf, you may be able to take part in a lawsuit to seek compensation for medical expenses and other damages. 

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Case Resources

California ex rel. Edmund Brown Jr. v. Beaulieu Group, et al. Complaint
Case number RG08407310, Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda
California ex rel. Edmund Brown Jr. v. Astroturf Settlement
Case number RG08407310, Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda
California ex rel. Edmund Brown Jr. v. FieldTurf Settlement
Case number RG08407310, Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda
California ex rel. Edmund Brown Jr. v. Beaulieu Settlement
Case number RG08407310, Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda