Cleaner Living: Cancer in the Sandbox
So we bloggers have our own little community where we ask questions of one another and bounce ideas around:
“When did your little one start sleeping through the night?”
“Is such and such normal for this developmental milestone?”
“Any suggestions for play sand that doesn’t cause cancer?”
This was a question put out to us by our blogger Stephanie. For the last 2 weeks, her daughters have been happily playing in their sandbox, when she noticed this warning on the bag:
This was concerning to a lot of us. My kids love the beach and the sand, and I know at least Ava’s daycare has a sandbox and indoor sand tables, so this was of great concern to me. I asked Steph if I could write a Cleaner Living post about this and she graciously agreed.
Common “play sand” that can be found in Home Depot and Lowes is not really sand. It is made of crystalline silica which is basically crushed quartz, and a known carcinogen and can cause a lung disease known as silicosis. Some brands, such as Quickrete, have also been known to contain tremolite asbestos which when inhaled can lead to increased lung cancer risks. While there are regulations in place by OSHA and the EPA for use of crystalline silica in industrial situations, there are hardly any regulations for its use in consumer products like children’s “play sand.”
The warnings on the bag are thanks to Proposition 65 in California that “regulates substances officially listed by California as causing cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.” It prohibits businesses from “knowingly discharging listed substances into drinking water sources, or onto land where the substances can pass into drinking water sources…and prohibits businesses from knowingly exposing individuals to listed substances without providing a clear and reasonable warning.”
Hence the warning on the bag that Stephanie bought. But the label does not accompany every bag of “play sand” as it is really only a requirement in the state of CA. If you go to Quickrete’s Play Sand website it only describes its sand as, “ a specially graded washed sand that has been dried and screened, for children’s sand boxes.” You have to click on a PDF labeled “MSDS Document” to find any information about its ingredients and warnings, “Crystalline silica (quartz) is not known to be an environmental hazard. Crystalline silica (quartz) is incompatible with hydrofluoric acid, fluorine, chlorine trifluoride or oxygen difluoride. Note: Keeping Play Sand damp eliminates the hazards associated with its dust.”
Keeping play sand damp?!?! I’m not sure about your kids, but mine are digging in, dumping out, and generally getting covered in sand when they play with it (not to mention the occasional handful that makes its way into their mouths). There have been many times I have picked up Ava from daycare to find her head covered in sand. I’m pretty sure she is inhaling this stuff and it scares the CRAP out of me!
So other than filling up baggies at the beach what can you do?
- First, stop using any play sand that does not label its ingredients clearly. If you don’t know what’s in it, don’t use it.
- Ask your daycare provider to do the same. I talked to the teachers and director today and they were equally concerned and wanted to use alternatives. I was quite alarmed by the story of when they put the sand in the sand table and the “big white dust cloud” appears.
- Purchase your sand from your local landscaping companies that sell river sand and/or beach sand. These are usually sterilized and to not contain silica or tremolite.
- You can find silica and tremolite free brands here at SafeSand and Sandtasik. They are a bit pricier than the brands found in Home Depot and Lowes, but maybe you can get a cheaper price by buying in bulk and sharing the cost with other families or your daycare provider.
- A recipe for homemade sand can be found here. I will be trying this out and will let you know how it works!