Club Appeals Court Decision That Ignores Critical Safety Hazards
FRANCISCO -- On Jan. 29, the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter and its
co-plaintiffs appealed the decision of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri
L. Jackson that would allow the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
(SFRPD) to irresponsibly ignore the fact that the artificial turf material
proposed for use in soccer fields in the west end of Golden Gate Park exceeds
the safety thresholds for toxic chemicals set by the Bay Area Air Quality
Management District (BAAQMD).
San Francisco Recreation and Park Department should make spaces safe for our
children, not allow them to be exposed to chemicals that are proven unsafe for
their health,” said Michelle Myers, Chapter Director of the San Francisco Bay
Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Sadly, the department has taken a wrong turn this
this case, the SFRPD admitted in its California Environmental Quality Act
documents that the artificial turf proposed for use at the Beach Chalet soccer
fields exceeded the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Acute Hazard
Index by at least 200 percent. Despite this finding, the SFRPD insisted that
close is good enough, and that using toxic material for playfields for children
is not a problem.
CEQA, if a project exceeds the BAAQMD Acute Hazard Index, the environmental
impact report must recognize and impose all feasible mitigation measures and
alternatives to reduce the risk.
Instead, the SFRPD decided to ignore these requirements and simply
assumed it knew better than the agency specifically created to control these
the Superior Court Judge agreed with the City, leading to this appeal.
BAAQMD measures toxicity in several ways. It measures toxicity for cancer. And
it measures toxicity from non-cancer causing chemicals, such as lead, carbon
black and other chemicals, that have significant impacts on humans, such as
asthma, reproductive impacts, IQ deficits, etc. The Acute Hazard Index (AHI)
measures the latter chemicals. When a project exceeds the AHI threshold it
means that there is sufficient exposure to these chemicals to warrant concern.
The SFRPD decided it knew better.
City’s own documents admit that for non-cancer causing toxicity, the
contaminants in the turf exceed the AHI. The City didn’t adhere to these findings.
The San Francisco
Chapter of the Sierra Club is confident that the Court of Appeals will
recognize the need to evaluate the potential harm that may come from using this
artificial turf material and ask the SFRPD to do a better job.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was created to ensure
that decision-makers are presented with all the information they need in order
to minimize environmental harm from projects to the maximum extent feasible. It
was also created to ensure that the public is given the opportunity in court to
challenge documents that fail to provide full information and decisions that
ignore facts in order to approve environmentally harmful projects.
Examples of the toxic chemicals that may be released
from this artificial turf include: acetone,
aniline, arsenic, barium, benzene, benzothiazole, cadmium, chloroethane,
chromium, cobalt, copper, halogenated flame retardants, isoprene, latex, lead,
manganese, mercury, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, naphthalene,
nickel, phenol, pigments, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, styrene -
butadiene, toluene, and trichloroethylene.
Recently, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) retracted an earlier position that this
artificial turf material was safe. The sole study on artificial turf that EPA
conducted was back in 2009 when it took air and surface samples from three
athletic fields and from one playground. The testing looked only at one
chemical on brand new fields without levels of activity typical on a field or
playground and ignored the role of heat in chemical release. The EPA now states
that the study was “very limited” and provides no basis for assuming that its
use at other sites will be safe. (PEER, Public Employees for Environmental
Myers: (415) 646-6930