Sand: What You Need To Know Before Getting In the Sandbox This Summer

Hi and thanks for reading!
Get your daily dose of A Child Grows sent to your inbox free!
Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

I will admit, I don’t love the sandbox. I vacillate between accepting the inevitable and railing against it. Ah, nothing like consistent parenting. Somedays I think, who cares, I’ll hose her down at home. Other days I think, I am not interested in searching for pinworms on anyone. It hasn’t even occurred to me to worry about needles or other toxic nasties hiding in the sandbox (a mom pointed that possibility out to me the other day). But, my girl LOVES sand. Well, she loves soft, loose sand that you find on the beach or in newer, dryer playground. When I heard there was yet another reason to worry about sand, of all things, I’d had it.

Most play sand sold in California is labeled: “known …to cause cancer.” The exact same sand is sold across the country, but only California’s Proposition 65 requires the cancer warning to be on the package. The label warns of crystalline silica, the dust of which can cause fatal lung conditions with long-term exposure (“long-term” is the phrase to focus on here) .

Crystalline silica dust in play sand is rare because the particles are larger, so we are not breathing them in. The documented cases prompting the labeling are in industrial settings, where the sand is ground or hammered, resulting in lots of breathable dust over extended periods. There are not conclusive studies on children’s exposure.

The sand fight is contentious, as most things involving kids or cancer are. Some resolutely believe we are coddling our kids and are afraid of everything, the “we played in sand as kids and we’re just fine” team. Others are just as staunch in their beliefs that we need to avoid all potentially dangerous situations, regardless of the actual risk.  I think, life it too short. Don’t worry about what you can’t change, but make educated choices about the things you have control over. So if you are buying sand for that sand table in your home, which I assume you will also be using as a coffee/dining table, and you have few extra hundred dollars, you can buy silica free sand, which is crystalline silica dust-free. Or just go for molding sand or sensory beads instead. If you don’t have any nut allergies, some people recommend crushed walnut shells, which is available at the pet store. It’s 9.99 for 7lbs.

And if you were thinking you would sneak some from the beach, know that beach sand is silica, too, though the fine dust would have been washed away by the water. Aside from the guilt you will feel for adding to the erosion problem, this study shows that beach sand is full of contaminants from birds, sewage and urban run-off.

So the bottom line is this. Worms, junkies and potentially poisonous dust are apparently just part of city life. Accept it or move. Let them play. Unless you have them digging ditches in the sandbox twelve hours a day, they are going to be ok.

Similar Posts:


  1. I found sand at for my children’s sandbox the brand is Sandtastik and it is $24.49 for 25lbs so I spent $100 to fill their turtle sandbox. I don’t live in the city, but being in an area with many wild and stray animals means that the sand is potentially infested by feces and feces related bugs, virus, worms, and other nasty things. Below is the description for the sand that I purchased (copied from 9-19-2014 @ 10:49am)

    Give your children beautiful, soft sand to play with thanks to the Sandtastik Sandbox Sand. With 25 lbs. of this clean, sparkling white sand, your child will have hours of fun digging, building and molding. This sand is non-toxic and contains no free silica or quartz. In fact, it’s 100% natural so it’s environmentally-friendly too. It’s suitable for indoor crafts such as layering, and it molds beautifully when wet. It’s also perfect for outdoor sandboxes. No other sand compares to the quality of this fine, soft sand.

    White play sand in 25 lb. box
    Safe, non-toxic, no free silica or quartz
    Sand has a natural sparkle
    Suitable for indoor sand tables and classrooms
    Also works well in outdoor sandboxes
    Molds wonderfully when wet
    Ideal for layering and unique arts and crafts

  2. If it is not safe for a 200 pound construction worker to inhale crystalline silica (CS) dust, why should it be safe for preschoolers and teachers?”

    It is absolutely important to read the label before adding sand to your child’s sandbox.

    Recent landmark legislation, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), requires lead testing for playsand and all toys marketed to children. You can find more information on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, here:

  3. Excellent beat ! I wish to apprentice whilst you amend your website, how
    can i subscribe for a blkg website? The account helped
    me a applicable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast
    provided shiny clear idea

  4. No one really knows what causes cancer. And just because the label says it’s known to cause cancer doesn’t mean the sand will cause cancer.

    Water can kill people under the right conditions. Does that mean we need warning labels on water? There have been no known cases of play sand causing cancer.

    Or it would be like saying a giant bolder fell and killed someone so now pebbles have to have warning labels because they are the same thing just different sizes.

    Or when people say “this ingredient is found in jet fuel!” and say we should ingest it. It doesn’t make it unsafe!

  5. I bought sand for my kids from sandtastik. Their website is – the sand quite a bit cheaper than most silica free, and the best part is you can clean the sand so you don’t need to replace all the time! my kids love it

  6. Good question….my thought is that beach sand gets washed in and out by the ocean too- but not sandbox sand. Anyone else want to chime in?

  7. Thanks for this article! No doubt people use just about everything as a public restroom in the city and I’m sure the rats (and other rodents) get right on the slides as much as the sand box- they can jump up to six feet for that tasty granola bar morsel ;-)
    One thought– Doesn’t playground sand essentially get washed by the rain in the same manner that the ocean water is “washing out” sand at the beach?

  8. Walmart has Crayola Play Sand which is 99% dust free and has passed rigorous testing allowing them to sell their product without the label.

  9. Here is a great alternative to sand…I’d use it in a sand table vs. a sandbox…

  10. 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.

  11. Great article. I had done extensive research on the whole sandbox thing a few years ago and decided it just wasn’t worth the effort & worry—besides, my kids would just be bringing it all in the house, anyway. Aside from the crystalline silica, some brands of sand contain tremolite asbestos, which can put you at risk of lung cancer. I had even called a place here in Brooklyn that sells green building supplies (Green Depot) and they said they would be able to order the silica-free safe sand, to just let them know how many bags I wanted. I never did order. It was pretty pricey. And, yes, it is illegal to take sand from the beaches. We opted against the backyard sandbox. They’ll get enough sand play at our visits to the beach or our occasional visits to Pier 6.


  1. Sand: What You Need To Know Before Getting In the Sandbox This … | Untreated Info
  2. Rock the Rox Box | Front Yardening: urban organic vegetable gardening in the front yard

Leave a Response