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Dangers of Play Sand

By Debby Mayne ; Updated July 28, 2017

Not all child's play is safe. Parents of small children have learnt to watch for recommended ages on toys for babies and toddlers, but many of them have haven't thought about putting the same time and consideration into purchasing sand to fill the sandpit. After extensive testing, the State of California requires companies that distribute play sand to add a warning on the label of sand products that contain crystalline silica, which is a carcinogen that comes from quartz rocks. After inhaling silica dust, children's developing lungs could be at risk.

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Dangerous Particles in the Sand

The Health Research Group, which is tied to Ralph Nader, claims that some play sands have cancer-causing particles that are dangerous for children to breathe. They want these products to be banned, claiming that the mineral tremolite found in the sand has qualities similar to asbestos, a known carcinogen. Dr. Lynn Silver, a researcher with the group, told the New York Times in 1988 that she felt that the Consumer Product Safety Commission "failed in its duty to protect children. This is a kind of hazard in children that doesn't manifest itself for 20 years, and then it's too late." A Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman countered that the agency's researchers believed that there was no evidence to indicate that playground sand posed health risks similar to asbestos.

Industry Argument

Industry leaders that market the product and the Consumer Product Safety Commission claim that there is no evidence of play sand being dangerous. They say that, when it is encased in sand, the mineral is in a safer crystalline form.

Other Dangers of Sandboxes

Sandboxes pose other dangers that parents need to be aware of. They should be in an area away from other playground equipment, such as swings, jungle gyms, and slides so a child in motion won't injure one playing in the sandbox. Sandboxes should be kept covered to prevent animals from using it to eliminate solid or liquid waste. The sand should be kept dry to prevent bacteria from breeding.

Maintaining Sandboxes

Sand should be periodically replaced---every year or two---to ensure that it is clean. Repair or replace cracked covers to keep animals and moisture out. Occasionally sift the sand and get rid of clumped sand or pea gravel that can injure a child. Wash sandbox toys frequently.

Danger of Inhaling Crystalline Silica

Inhaling crystalline silica can cause the lung disease silicosis, which inflames the lungs and prevents the sufferer from getting enough oxygen. More advanced lung and heart disease may result.

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About the Author

Debby Mayne started writing professionally in 1992. Her work has appeared in regional parenting magazines and she has been managing editor of the magazine, "Coping with Cancer." She was also fashion product information writer for HSN. During college, Mayne worked as an instructor at a fitness center. She holds a Bachelor of Science in health, PE and recreation from the University of Southern Mississippi.

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