Monday, April 20, 2009

Safe Sand

With Easter behind us and Memorial Day on the horizon, my thoughts have turned to summer fun. Nothing like the open air to exhaust the little ones. One of the virtues of having made the move from the city to the 'burbs is our really great backyard.

But with a great backyard (even a fully-fenced one) comes great responsibility.

See, we bought this really cool sandbox for the little one. It's all wood (plastic toys were dethroned, remember?) and it comes with a canopy, so she can get enough sunlight to make her own Vitamin D, but not so much as to cause skin cancer. I really thought I had mitigated all of the potential life-threatening dangers of outdoor sandbox play for our soon-to-be 3-year-old.

Then, I tried to buy sand.

It turns out that the "play sand" sold at your friendly, neighborhood Home Depot is nothing more than a heavy bag of carcinogenic dust. Seriously.

Joking aside, it seems that "play sand" isn't natural sand, but "actually derived from quarried quartz rocks. The dust from such sand is regulated by OSHA and known to cause fatal lung conditions." It contains crystalline silica, a substance the EPA recognizes as a possible carcinogen.

Nonetheless, bagging it and calling it "play sand" is still perfectly legal, unless you do so in California, in which case you must include a warning label on your package which cautions against "cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm." Once you slap that label on it, you're free to cash in.

I hate to be a fear monger, I really do. But how does a Mama read something like that just ignore it? How can I continue blithely along and fill my daughter's sandbox after reading this?

Of course, I cannot. Pandora's sandbox has been opened and the ills of our 21st century world have flown out in a swarm of crystalline silica. I can't fill my kid's sandbox with a bag of junk that an entire state government believes could kill her.

Instead, I dig around for hope.

I found the Safe Sand Company, which promises to sell me "finely gradated and clean play sand" for only around a dollar a pound. They figure it should only take about 200 pounds to fill up my little sandbox. At that rate, I'll need to start charging admission for playdates.

Papa says we should just drive out to our local beach under cover of darkness and fill up a few trash bags. But I'm not convinced that resorting to crime is the way to solve our problem.

Maybe the solution is to return the sandbox to the store and dig a dirt pit in the back yard for her to play in. It's cheap, it's easy, it's totally natural and, presumably, it shouldn't give any of us cancer. It also won't require a part-time job to fund.

I'm still looking for a safe, less expensive alternative to the crushed cancer-causing dust at the hardware store. But if I don't find one by Memorial Day, you may just find us making mud pies in our very own dirt pit.


Dawn said...

Hey Meaghan, If you already have the box some of those super small rounded pebbles you can get for walkways would be fun! Not sure about the price on those but I was thinking about them for a box in the future.
Dirt is always a winner around here too!

Ruth said...

I'd definitely go with the dirt. Much as we love the beach, I have never had a sandbox and my kids are perfectly content to dig in the dirt. Rocks are fun, too. In fact, just about anywhere we go in the world, my middle child will plop himself down and entertain himself in a patch of dirt or pile of rocks.
The other problem with sand, of course, is its ability to spread itself out all over your house where it will remain forever in the cracks in the floor and under the couch cushions.

Meaghan said...

I think I'm down with the dirt, ladies. You've convinced me.

Elizabeth said...

We purchased sanitized sand from our local Toys R Us at $5.99 for a 50 pound bag. have used them for years for our small one's sandbox.
Hope this helps!

rebecca said...

creeptown! i was considering a sandbox, but after reading this post i think i'm gonna go with a water table instead.

what about beans? cheap and the kids love em! i've posted about my love of bean boxes before over at if u need more convincing.

Kate said...

Such a nicely written piece. Thanks for the tips.

Nicole said...

The sand you will get from Safe Sand is from Canada, which is why the sand is expensive, in order to cover the costs of shipping. However, despite the price, the sand is well worth it. It lasts forever, and what kind of price can you really put on your child's safe, cancer-free enjoyment of sand? Sand therapy is one of the newest and most effective therapies used, beneficial for all children. I am completely satisfied with the sand received from Safe Sand, and I was also impressed by the people who run Safe Sand, who are genuinely concerned with protecting children from the cancer-causing agents found in other types of sand. I say, go for it!

Mallorie said...

@Elizabeth. Do you live in California? The reason I ask is I just tried to buy a bag of "sanitized sand" from toy-r-us and it had the label on it saying cancer causing materials inside. I would be weary of buying toy-r-us sand.

Anonymous said...

I'm in exactly the same position as you are, getting a sandbox just to find out safe sand is so expensive. I'll have to spend $1000 to fill my 5'x5'one. Unwilling to return the sandbox I might try the advice given by the safesand company, which is to buy pea gravel. Too bad it doesn't mold but this is the best I can do I guess. I'm also thinking about finding someone to split a 2000-pound shipment so the cost can be cut in half. -Claire

Anonymous said...

If you look on the safe sand website they offer an alternative if their costs are too high. They say local hardware stores should carry "pea gravel" which is safe, however it doesn't mold into shapes. They say just to make sure the bag says "washed" and "dust-free." It is very inexpensive, about $5 for a 50lbs. bag. Hope this helps, though I know the original post was from 2009.

Anonymous said... sells PURE CRUSHED MARBLE it is totally safe for kids
and a beautiful bright white. Playbox sand is comparable is price to typical sand you would buy from a landscape supply and is available in 50lb bags and by the truckload for playgrounds and schools. They also have 6 grit and 9 grit Pure Marble pebbles. A lot of playsand that can be purchased at the major hardware stores can still be dangerous and if you look closely at the bag it will have a warning label on it indicating that it contains silica.
If your local hardware store doesn't stock Playbox Sand ask them to, or buy directly from

Anonymous said...

I ordered a 50lb bag of the Safe Sand. I wanted to see how nice it is before ordering a large quantity, especially because of the expense. It took 5 weeks for them to process the internet order before it was even shipped for just a 50lb bag. I've left voicemail messages but no calls have been returned. I'm regretting ordering from The SafeSand Company if this is what their customer services is like. Maybe safesand is just a fear monger scam??