By Evan Mohl
Killeen Daily Herald
The turf at Killeen Independent School District's Leo Buckley Stadium has been declared safe for use.
The field, closed since Dec. 19 due to concerns of toxic turf, reopened on Friday.
Last month, two Texas high school stadiums found levels of lead far exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's standard for soil. Both fields used the same brand (AstroPlay) and manufacturer (Southwest Recreational Industries Inc.) as KISD.
The news along with the advice of San Marcos-based Burcham Environmental Services pushed KISD to close and test Leo Buckley. The stadium fared far better than its counterparts.
Lead-in-air and lead-surface samples collected by BES and testing conducted by EMSL Analytical Inc. revealed lead amounts well below current standards.
Currently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration lead limit in air is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The sampling done at Leo Buckley showed concentration of lead at less than 6.7 micrograms. Dust tests uncovered roughly 10 micrograms per square foot on the turf's surface, also well below the OSHA standard of 50.
"Based on collection processes, we feel that inhalation or skin contact with lead dust at this site are well below any known current standards regarding lead exposure," EMSL wrote in its report to KISD. "We feel confident that activities at the site should continue for the foreseeable future."
One black mark, however, did appear in the report. Testing in the innermost fibers found lead levels of 490-1100 parts per million. Generally, those levels should be below the 490 mark.
Kent Burcham, who advised KISD throughout the process, said the results shouldn't cause much concern. Root fibers do not come into contact with athletes and they are encapsulated.
Lead, to have negative affects, must be either ingested or inhaled. It also almost always affects children under the age of 7.
"The innermost fiber results are certainly higher than you'd like," Burcham said. "But it's really not a problem because no one touches those parts."
For safety's sake, Burcham recommended periodic testing to monitor lead spreading to more tangible parts of the field. KISD did not comment on a timetable for future tests.
Currently, no state or federal requirements to test artificial turf for lead exist.
"We're dealing with a uncharted territory," said Peter Tadin, a lead-based paint expert at the Texas Department of State Health Services. "What we do know is that it would take elongated exposure to lead through inhaling or ingestion – very unlikely on a football field, especially if found in the innermost fibers. A good hand washing would likely get rid of any kind of exposure these kids might experience."
KISD went ahead with the process anyway. The total cost came to roughly $3,000 according to BES.
Burcham believes the expense is worth it, and beats the alternative of waiting.
"Based on the results, we can conclude that the athletes at KISD are safe," he said. "There's no government oversight or guidelines on this, but, based on what we do know, the kids are in a healthy environment. That's reassuring."
Contact Evan Mohl at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7564.