Is play sand safe for children?

Updated February 21, 2017

Children love to dig and play in the sand, but many parents bristle at the thought of how dirty, grimy and germ-laden it might be. Fortunately all sand is not created equal. Sanitised play sand offers a clean and safe digging alternative.

Sanitised Play Sand

The safest play sand for children is sanitised play sand, meaning it does not contain any crystalline silica. The EPA and OSHA recognise that inhalation of crystalline silica (found in quartz) can cause lung damage, disease or cancer. To keep its consumers safe and aware, the State of California places a label on play sand containing crystalline silica that reads: "This product contains crystalline silica, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer, and other substances which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm."

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has Mandates

Check your play sand's packaging label. In February 2009 it was mandated by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) that consumer products intended for children 12 and under cannot contain phthalate levels greater than .1 per cent (one-tenth of 1 per cent) in any accessible part. Safe play sand will adhere to this.

Safe Play Sand is Washed Play Sand

Look at how your play sand was manufactured or mined. If it is "washed sand," it was surface mined, screened and machine-washed to remove clay and silt. After all this it is thoroughly dried.

Keep It Safe

To keep your play sand safe, it needs to be cared for. Replace it at least every two years, and cover it when not in use. Be sure it has a sufficient drainage system, and keep it as dry as possible.

Use Your Judgment

Do not be afraid of playground sandboxes, schoolyard playgrounds or other areas your children frequent. Strictly forbidding exposure to different sands will likely affect your children more than if you let them safely explore and play.

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About the Author

Jennifer Erchul has been a freelance writer since 2002. Writing primarily about family and travel, her work has appeared in the "Idaho State Journal," "Portnuef Valley Parents Magazine" and "Western Flyfisher." She writes for numerous websites and is a published author. Erchul studied English and psychology at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.