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.