Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) questioned Lew about an unsubstantiated allegation from a school activist that artificial turf installed by the school construction agency could harm student-athletes. "The concern does not apply to the product we're using," Lew said. "We're not interested in putting anything in the school system that is not safe."
Earlier Barry held a news conference on the athletic field at Anacostia High School in Southeast to call for environmental tests on the turf installed at Ballou, Coolidge, Dunbar, McKinley, Roosevelt and Wilson high schools.
Barry said he has learned that the silica sand used by contractor FieldTurf Tarkett could be hazardous, possibly causing silicosis, a lung disease. "I did some research on it. From what I can gather, it is a problem," Barry said. "We don't want our young men to be in the hot sun and fall on this kind of turf."
Anacostia, where weeds covered the slightly overgrown grass field yesterday, is scheduled to get the artificial turf in the next round of field renovations.
FieldTurf Tarkett, a decade-old company based in Pittsburgh, responded with a lengthy statement. The company said it does use the chemical and added that no one has developed silicosis from its use on the company's playing fields.
"FieldTurf Tarkett has, at its core, a commitment to the health and safety of athletes and the environment," the statement reads. "FieldTurf artificial turf is a product created solely to provide athletes of all ages a safe playing surface."
In an interview, spokesman Darren Gill said competitors have been spreading the silicosis rumor. FieldTurf, a leader in the sports surfacing industry, is the only company with a patent for the silica formula used to make the turf "as close to grass as possible."
"Making claims against sand would be advantageous" for competitors, Gill said.
After the news conference, school activist Marvin Tucker, who alerted Barry to the alleged danger, said he got the information about the sand from FieldTurf's competitors. But Tucker said the source of the information did not diminish the potential health risks.
Clarence Cherry, an activist parent who was at the news conference, said he will tell his son to "stay off the field" at Dunbar until the city provides evidence that the turf is safe.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Barry the chemist or the conspiracy nut?
God help us all, but apparently current Ward 8 Councilperson and ex "Mayor For Life" Marion Barry is putting his Masters in Organic Chemistry to work. Buried in this WaPo article about the latest dust up between DCPS and the City Council over money was this nugget.