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Your sandbox sand may not be safe for kids after all

Michelle Maffei is a freelance copywriter covering a variety of topics both online and in print, from parenting to beauty and more. Combining her two favorite loves, writing and motherhood, she has found joy in even the most challenging ...

Your kid's sandbox could be making them sick

It's safe to assume that almost every parent has picked up a bag of play sand off the shelf without giving it a second thought. But it probably wasn't until you got home, got your sandbox all set up and started idly Googling while your child was busy with the sand bucket that you began to wonder if store-bought sand was really all that safe.

What you may not know about your play sand

Disturbing facts are surfacing about dangerous, cancer-causing hazards hiding in the sand that keeps kiddos entertained. Before you plop down your youngster into this soft stuff, dig up the truth about sandbox sand: is yours safe?

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Uncover the toxins in sandbox sand

When purchasing a bag of sandbox sand, you may just be exposing your kiddo to toxic ingredients, namely microcrystalline silica. Commonly, playground sand is made from quartz rock, which is why many of these bags-o-fun are slapped with a Proposition 65 label warning of the health hazard contained within. But, how does a romp in play sand come with serious health consequences for your youngster?

Recognize the health hazards

As any parent can attest, sandbox sand is dusty and dirty. Unfortunately, "as children play, sand becomes airborne and inhaled," explains Nick Cicone, of Kid Safe Sand. When these tiny particles of silica lurking in sandbox sand enter your youngster's lungs, the results can equal serious health hazards for your little one.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breathing in the tiny carcinogen can lead to silicosis, an irreversible disease, as well as lung cancer, airway diseases and pulmonary tuberculosis. Exposure to these compounds may also be related to the development of chronic renal disease, development of autoimmune disorders and also have other bad health outcomes. And, although no studies have been conducted specifically relating to children's play spaces, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that exposure to silica is bad news, regardless of the source.

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But, the good news is it's preventable.

Discover safe sandbox sand

The most important — and easiest — way to shield your little ones from toxic sandbox sand is to opt for safe sandbox sand or other play sand alternative. "A safe sandbox is all about sand not containing health hazards such as microcrystalline silica," explains Cicone. "Silica-free sand contains no known hazardous substances," making it a safe sandbox option for your child to dive in and get dirty with.

When using safe sandbox alternatives to traditional play sand outdoors, be mindful of materials that are designed to absorb moisture, as they will eventually mildew and need replacing.


Dangerous sandbox sand and silica-free sand are not the only options for your child's sandbox.

Other safe sandbox options include:

  • Pea gravel
  • Crushed walnuts from pet store
  • Rice
  • Dried beans and legumes
  • Cornmeal
  • Flaxseed from horse and feed store
  • Fish tank rocks from pet store
  • Rubber mulch made from recycled tire chips
  • Mini corncob from pet store

Despite the truth about sandbox sand, when you can't afford to replace the play sand you already have with silica-free sandbox sand right away, it can still be made safer by keeping materials damp and minimizing the dust. Just remember to keep your sandbox covered when your kiddos aren't at play; cats and other outdoor critters may see this play space as a litter box and expose your children to toxoplasmosis, a parasite contained in cat feces.

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By taking a few precautionary steps, you can focus less on the hidden dangers and more on how you’re going to get your kids to keep the sand in the box.

Your kid's sandbox could be making them sick
Image: Terese Condella/SheKnows;Image via Getty Images

Updated by Bethany Ramos on 5/16/2016

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