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Hazardous chemicals in outdoor and indoor surfaces: artificial turf and laminate flooring

Abstract

Background

Synthetic materials, increasingly used for indoor and outdoor surfaces including homes and playgrounds, may contain toxic chemicals. Infants have a higher potential of exposure to chemicals in these materials, which may pose a risk to their health.

Objective

To understand potential risks related to outdoor surface coverings, based on a review of the literature and regulations, and to assess levels of hazardous chemicals in surface coverings in Israel.

Methods

We reviewed the literature and regulations on artificial turf. We tested 46 samples of surfaces for trace metals in synthetic playground surfaces; trace metals, phthalates, and di(2-ethylhexyl) terephthalate (DEHT) in synthetic grass, and phthalates, DEHT and formaldehyde in laminate flooring.

Results

Twelve studies reporting high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and varying levels of trace metals in synthetic playground surfaces were identified, as well as five international regulations on lead with maximum acceptable concentrations in the range 40–500 mg/kg. Surface tests showed that 20 out of 30 samples of synthetic playground surfaces exceeded relevant standards for trace metals, of which five had cadmium levels ≥30 mg/kg and four had chromium levels ≥510 mg/kg. In synthetic grass, three out of eight samples exceeded relevant standards, with lead levels ≥1200 mg/kg. In Laminate flooring (n = 8) formaldehyde levels were in the range of 0.7–1.2 mg/m2 formaldehyde, and five samples contained ~5% DEHT.

Significance

The literature on chemicals in surfaces is limited, but indicates some exceedance of regulatory limits. Trace metals in synthetic playground surfaces and synthetic grass, not regulated in Israel, exceeded relevant international standards in 72% of samples. Laminate flooring, regulated for formaldehyde, did not exceed the 3.5 mg/m2 standard, but contained DEHT, a replacement for ortho-substituted phthalates. The results of this preliminary study show that flooring surfaces may be a source of children’s exposure to toxic chemicals.

Impact statement

Synthetic surfaces are increasingly being used in, for example, children’s playgrounds and sports fields. Exceedances of regulatory limits from other jurisdictions, of heavy metal levels in most outdoor surfaces sampled in Israel indicates the potential for children’s exposure. Domestic regulations should be implemented to reduce the risk to children from exposure to these surfaces.

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Fig. 1: Study design.
Fig. 2: Concentrations of heavy metals in synthetic grass*.

Data availability

The data generated in this study can be found in the supplementary file.

Notes

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Acknowledgements

We thank Patty Wong, Chief, Special Investigations Section, Pesticide and Environmental Toxicology Branch, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency, for the information about regulation of lead in turf in California. We thank Laura Walin, Regulatory Support Team, Support and Enforcement Unit, European Chemicals Agency, for the information about regulation of lead in turf in the European Union. We are grateful to Alex Elman, Shahar Nizri, and Ziv Ramrajker from the SII for their work on conducting the tests and their help in preparing this manuscript. This study was funded by the Environment and Health Fund, Israel, research grant PGA 1901.

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MN and TB conceived the idea of the study, MN wrote manuscript with input from all authors, ZBI led the literature review, performed the statistical analysis and the graphical presentation of the data. NC, RA, and YS conducted the analysis and wrote the methods section, TZ helped with the literature review and preparing the manuscript, MLD provided critical feedback and contributed to shaping the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Maya Negev.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Negev, M., Barnett-Itzhaki, Z., Berman, T. et al. Hazardous chemicals in outdoor and indoor surfaces: artificial turf and laminate flooring. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-021-00396-4

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Keywords

  • Artificial turf
  • Synthetic playground surfaces
  • Synthetic grass
  • Laminate flooring
  • Phthalates
  • Trace metals.

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