ASGi | Artificial Grass Market News


Lead Testing

Why test your artificial turf fibers for lead? Because additional information is required for a specific job and the specific job materials that will be used for a project.

  • For any public works project
  • For any commercial project
  • For general information for daycare, schools, health care, senior facility, Proposition 65 certification
  • For information required regarding disposal of fibers at a landfill or waste recycling center

What are we looking for?

There are no published thresholds or benchmarks to reach as to how much lead could be in artificial turf fibers and still be considered “safe”, today. There are no specific testing protocols that have been identified to test artificial turf surfaces or systems, either.

Human and environmental health and safety groups, organizations and governance bodies all agree that reducing our exposure to heavy metals, especially lead, should continue to decline, for every hazardous substance until it reaches a No Effect Level (NEL).

The trouble with lead, specifically, is that there IS NO NEL that can be determined for lead. In other words, the only NEL for lead is zero; so reducing exposure to any amount of lead, in effect, is the ultimate goal.

What is the most important piece of information we need from tests?

The most important data point to consider when reviewing your test results is how much lead, of any amount present, could be absorbed into our bodies by touching the material with exposed skin, or breathing in dust particles, or by hand to mouth exposure.

  • This is commonly referred to as the “bio-availability” of the lead.
  • The most “bio-available” lead is found in its original state, in surface soils all over the planet.
  • To put the amount of lead we are looking for into context, the CDC has determined that a benchmark for lead, by weight in soil on a school playground can measure up to 400 parts per million (ppm).  Any areas outside the perimeter of the designated play area can test up to 1200ppm before they are of any concern (that could include grasses, soils, mulch, etc.

Parts per million (ppm) to milograms per kilogram to % of weight

  • 6000 ppm = 6000 mg/Kg = 0.60 % by weight
  • 600 ppm = 600 mg/Kg = 0.06 %
  • 60 ppm = 60 mg/Kg = 0.006 %
  • 6 ppm = 6 mg/Kg = 0.0006 %

What kind of tests are done?

Several chemical tests are used to identify lead in material samples and how much of that lead might be able to be absorbed by the body, under normal exposure. These tests are used for all sorts of consumer and industrial products. Tests selected to assess lead in synthetic materials provide a set of standards, guidelines and protocols that must be followed to insure consistency and relevancy to the final test results.

  • Total Lead Content Test is the FIRST TEST that should be done is to determine the amount of “lead” that may be discovered to exist in the  sample.

If lead is found in the materials (using the Total Lead Content tests) the next point to determine is how much of the lead in the materials someone could be exposed to when they touch or use the artificial grass surfaces - that requires the results of two test protocols to provide the most balanced set of data.

  • These two tests are:
    • The “wipe test” which can tell you how much lead can be “wiped off” of a surface area.
    • The Ingestion or Solubility Test: If the wipe tests show positive results for lead content, a second test; referring to how soluble the lead content is; would be carried out to determine how much of the lead might be available to be absorbed into our systems through hand to mouth exposure or by inhaling particles of the materials.

A final test you can do on the sample will tell you how much lead might leach out of the turf fibers as they decompose, under the slightly acidic, grimy conditions found in a typical landfill, and is called:

  • The TCLP – Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure:
    provides information for the disposal of turf in a waste or landfill.

the following tests are commonly used to determine lead content in or on various surfaces found in homes, daycare, schools, commercial and public buildings:

  1. Total Lead Test:
    this is the first test you always want to do –
    test findings will tell you how much TOTAL lead is in the materials (it can measure if there is encapsulated lead chromate) – NIOSH 3050B and 6010B
  2. Wipe Test:
    measures how much of the lead present is on the surfaces (after the surfaces have been treated to simulate use, UV degradation and weather) and could wipe off on to you (NIOSH 9100B with a 12 inch by 12 inch sample)

    Based on discussions with the NJDHHS, one representative composite sample is likely adequate to determine lead levels in the synthetic turf material (SW846-3050B is recommended for the sample mass/weight requirement).

    A preliminary power analysis indicated between 10-15 dust samples should be collected to determine lead dust concentrations. ASTM D7144-05a (Standard Practice for Collection of Surface Dust by Micro-vacuum Sampling for Subsequent Metals Determination) is recommended.

    Effectiveness of wipe sample methods for dust collection has not yet been determined.  CDC is preparing an article for MMWR (due out in approximately 1-2 months), which will provide additional information on testing recommendations. Watch for that to be released and posted at

  3. Bio-Availability (Ingestion/Solubility) Tests:
    measures how much of any amount of lead present in the materials could be soluble – lead that is soluble can be absorbed into our bodies by touching the materials, eating it or inhaling dust made up of the materials, after it has broken-down under the wear and tear of use, UV exposure and weathering.  ASTM F963-07 for lead or all heavy metals
  4. TCLP – Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure:
    this test simulates the conditions of a landfill and can only tell you how much lead might leach out into the ground water or air in those conditions.  It cannot tell you how much lead is in the materials or if lead is soluble.

Can I do the testing myself?

There are self-test kits and portable testing equipment available and these methods are great for doing preliminary scanning of materials. For a more authoritative report and comprehensive test results, you should really seek out trained professionals and have the tests done under laboratory conditions. 

Chemistry labs can easily and inexpensively perform tests to determine the amount of lead (and other heavy metals and biological contaminants) in a sample and provide you a confidential report regarding your test results. Self testing may be a great way of screening material, but a professional lab report provides more credible documentation of test results, if ever needed.

The reported results, of course, are only valid for the materials tested.

Tests procedures and results are confidential and are relevant only to samples tested.

How much material is needed for testing artificial grass yarns for lead?

Most tests require just a few fibers, about the size of a tablespoon of materials (1 ounce by weight) of each type or style and color of fiber present in the finished materials – for a wipe test, many have used an area of 1 square foot (12 inches x 12 inches) to test artificial grass surface fibers for lead.

How much lead is too much lead?

Today, that question is under national attention from groups focusing on arriving at a comprehensive answer; not only for synthetic turf materials and system components, but for many related industries, as well. It is a complex question to answer for our market because there are so many generations of turf installed across the country and many are of various types of fibers and styles of yarn, built under a variable set of installation conditions, use and UV exposure.

Who can provide me professional testing?

Here are several professional labs that can provide you appropriate testing and are familiar with the artificial turf industry.  You can also locate a “chemistry” lab in your own area; in the US and EU, there are plenty of published standard testing protocols and procedures to insure your lab can follow standard guidelines to insure relevant results for you.

Northwest Labs of Seattle
Omar Simon

Wipe test – please provide a sample of at least 18 inches x 18 inches for a 12 inc x 12 in wipe sample area. For all other testing, 1 ounce (approximately 1 tablespoonful) of fibers (each type) are needed. Tests can be completed for one or all heavy metals.

NW Labs also offers a full array of onsite testing of installed artificial grass surfaces AND new product testing in their labs for GMax and other surface testing for sports fields and other areas that must remain ASTM standards compliant for HIC, Fall-Zone Safety and percolation.


National Food Labs
Grace Bandong, Chemistry Lab Director:
925-551-4206 (offc)

National Food Labs provides both biological and chemical testing.


Other artificial turf fiber test options:

X-Ray Florescence Mobile Test Equipment:

For a quick spot check of lead content in almost any material or surface – use X-ray Fluorescence technology – it’s an easy to use mobile unit, ideal for a warehouse or the field.

By far, the most popular unit is the  Innov-X Systems handheld XRF available for sale and, more cost-effectively, by daily or weekly rental.

The Innov-X Portable XRF can screen for all five restricted RoHS elements in an instant -

  • Lead (Pb)
  • Mercury
  • Cadmium (Cd)
  • Chromium VI (Hexavalent Chromium or Cr)
  • Hg
  • Br

Units can test the following applications:

* RoHS/WEEE Compliance
* Metals in Soil
* Alloy
* Lead in paint, plastics, synthetic fabrics and fibers

Links to RENTAL and supply sources

GEOTECH Engineering:

EquipCO Rentals

Ajax Environmental Supplies & Rentals

Thermo Scientific – make, sell XRF units

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About ASGi

ASGi - the Association of Synthetic Grass Installers was founded in 2007 to help connect market partners and their customers in the artificial grass and synthetic turf industry. We have grown into a global presence, focused upon the niche markets of landscape and leisure sports. Take a moment, browse the site - or email or phone us if we can be of help in answering a question or locating information. Phone US TOLL FREE - 888-378-4581 View all posts by ASGi

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