#1
Old 06-18-2015, 11:14 AM
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Sandbox Sand safety

So, my mother in law bought my 2 year old son a sandbox for his birthday. It's nice, comes with a lid that seals to keep out bugs, rain and animals, and so on. So I looked up prices to get sand and saw all sorts of lovely mommy blogs concerned with sandbox sand causing cancer due to silica dust inhaliation and mesothelioma from small frangments of asbestos that can get mixed in with sand that comes from crushed quarts from quarries.

Now, washed, filtered crushed quartz play sand costs about $3.50 for 50 lbs, and the sandbox holds about 300 lbs of sand....Meanwhile, non-silica 'safe' sand costs $30 for a 25 lbs box. That's insanity.

In doing some research, I'm pretty confident the silica risk is essentially zero. The warnings for silica inhalation are blanket for anything that contains silica particles, even though the reason for the warnings is that it causes problems in industrial environments like sandblasting, where workers are exposed to fine airborne particles for hours a day for years. Not simple sandbox use. And it seems that there's not a single documented case of a child developing silicosis from a sandbox.

The asbestos thing is harder to weed out: some studies I found from decades ago found that while 2% concentrations of the mineral that asbestos comes from may be present, it is cleaved particles in the sand, not the dangerous fibrous asbestos. Still, it gives me pause. What's the straight dope? I also couldn't find a single documented case of kids having lung issues from asbestos in play sand either, so I'm inclined to think it's also nothing to worry about (and none of my friends or I ever had issues from playing in sandboxes as kids, though anecdotal evidence isn't exactly science.)

TLDR: Any cases of silicosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma from play sand in sandboxes?
#2
Old 06-18-2015, 11:20 AM
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Well the Asbestos lawyers shake down racket is a pretty ruthless bunch that leaves no stone unturned. I have not ready yet that they are going after sand manufactures, so I would assume there is your answer right there.
#3
Old 06-18-2015, 11:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jman View Post
....
Now, washed, filtered crushed quartz play sand costs about $3.50 for 50 lbs, and the sandbox holds about 300 lbs of sand....Meanwhile, non-silica 'safe' sand costs $30 for a 25 lbs box. That's insanity...
Given these numbers the washed sand will cost $3.50 X 6 = $21 to fill the box and the unwashed sand will cost $30 X 12 = $360 to fill the box.

I think you made a mistake somewhere.
#4
Old 06-18-2015, 11:38 AM
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What is being washed off the crushed quartz? What is being filtered out? How about just river sand or beach sand. Perhaps let the garden hose go overnight in the middle of your backyard and make a "mud box".

You're over-thinking the problem, get the six sacks for $21.
#5
Old 06-18-2015, 11:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaffan View Post
Given these numbers the washed sand will cost $3.50 X 6 = $21 to fill the box and the unwashed sand will cost $30 X 12 = $360 to fill the box.

I think you made a mistake somewhere.
No, I think that's the point - non-silica sand IS that expensive. (Well, I found it for $1/lb) and "regular" sand is that cheap.
#6
Old 06-18-2015, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by yearofglad View Post
No, I think that's the point - non-silica sand IS that expensive. (Well, I found it for $1/lb) and "regular" sand is that cheap.
Oh. I see. The mistake was mine.
#7
Old 06-18-2015, 12:23 PM
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Here's the MSDS for Quikrete play sand (caution - PDF which may cause browser cancer):

quikrete.com/PDFs/MSDS-B4-Playsand.pdf

I am no expert but reading through it it appears that while crystalline silica is a potentially hazardous material that is in "occupational settings" (which to me sounds like a factory where tons of the stuff are being ground up and there is a huge amount of dust present, as opposed to a small sandbox in the open air).

After wading through many pages of search results which all seem to be repeating the same scary warnings (yes, sand is subject to CA's prop 65 warning) I found a link to a letter that the US Silica company posted in regards to this:

"Silica dust particles larger than 10 micrometers do not pose a silicosis or cancer risk to the lungs…Play sand, including that sold by U.S. Silica Company, is typically 212 micrometers [in size], well above the respirable dust size. And, while we have never measured “exposures” in a sandbox, it is only reasonable to conclude that sandbox “exposures” (if they exist at all) are far below those experienced in industrial setting, because (1) play sand is not respirable, (2) playing in play sand does not make it respirable, (3) sandboxes are outside, (4) children do not play in sandboxes 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 20 or more years."

I couldn't find a grading curve for "play sand" online but the general sand grading curves I did find showed 0% at the 0.01mm (10 micrometer) size.

So my admittedly non-expert reading of this is that:

1. Yes, silica dust can pose a health hazard. Thus the Prop 65 warnings on bags of sand.
2. However it has to be very fine dust, much smaller than is found in play sand.
3. And you have to be exposed to a lot of it for a long time.

I have no problem with my kid playing in a sandbox.
#8
Old 06-18-2015, 01:29 PM
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Yeah, the silica I'm not worried about. I'm not really worried too much about it all, but the fact that tests did find notable percentages of asbestos (though not fibers, but cleaved chunks) raised my interest enough to seek more info. But I'm having trouble finding more that isn't from people repeating scare lines - that tells me something right there, but I didn't know if anyone else had more concrete data.

Last edited by Jman; 06-18-2015 at 01:31 PM.
#9
Old 06-18-2015, 02:03 PM
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A lot of the fine dust comes from grinding - so you're more likely to get it in industrial situations, roads, etc - where the sand particles are ground together heavily. (Think those dusty country roads). If your sandbox is outside, and has adequate drainage, I would imagine any smaller particles are washed away pretty quickly.

Sandboxes get a bad name in day cares, public locations, etc. because you never know what kids will leave behind there. Everything from runny noses to worse, unwashed hands digging in the stuff, dropped food, etc. If it's outdoors, add cats and fly-over birds to the mix. One daycare I knew was required by the province to wash the sand with a bleach solution once a week - eventually they gave up and got rid of the box. heck, most of the McDonalds have gotten rid of those ball pits for similar hygiene reasons.

Of course, with a covered, one-child sandbox, there are lot less of these issues.
#10
Old 06-18-2015, 03:11 PM
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I'm glad to see you'll have a cover. I built my kid a nice, hexagonal sandbox, sandpapered and stained and filled with play sand. Then I started finding cat crap in it from neighbors that let them roam at night. The whole of the outdoors and they have to turn her play area into a giant litter box.
#11
Old 06-18-2015, 03:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
What is being washed off the crushed quartz? What is being filtered out? How about just river sand or beach sand. Perhaps let the garden hose go overnight in the middle of your backyard and make a "mud box".

You're over-thinking the problem, get the six sacks for $21.
[mommyblog]How can you put a price on your child's safety?!?[/mommyblog]
#12
Old 06-18-2015, 03:27 PM
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Observations:

1.) When kids play in the sand at the beach, the sand isn't "washed" by anything except the ocean. Unless the sand you're getting to fill the sandbox is freshly crushed from rock and full of rock dust from that procedure, I'd think that using unwashed sand is like using sand you find in nature. Which kids play in all the time.

2.) If you're really obsessed about safety, one alternative is to use plastic beads. Seriously,. When I was a kid, my cousin had a "sandbox" filled with spherical plastic pellets. I have no idea where they came from, but they look a lot like the stuff that comes in bags of plastic resin used by injection-molding machines.

They still sell stuff like this, apparently:

http://walmart.com/ip/Children-s...ables/22585768

http://amazon.com/Sand-Colored-P.../dp/B005FLC7KA
#13
Old 06-18-2015, 03:34 PM
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Don't ever take your kids to the beach. Not ever. Silicosis and cancer everywhere.
#14
Old 06-18-2015, 03:39 PM
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1. Buy the cheapest sand you can find
2. Put the child in it

It's pretty simple really. I don't remember kids in my neighborhood dropping like flies because of silica. I would be far more worried about animal/human droppings in the sandbox, and especially sandworms.
#15
Old 06-18-2015, 04:20 PM
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Dear lord, it's like no one actually reads anymore. I'm not worried about the silica. I've said so in the OP and in a follow up.

My main question is about the asbestos part, as there's very little info aside from vague mentions and one study I found describing that it often does contain 2-4% of the asbestos minerals. Does anyone have information on asbestos in the sand that comes from quarries (cheap)? That's the only real question, and I was wondering if anyone had a single documented case of lung issues from this. So far, that appears to be no, which is what I expected, but when I expect that people make a big deal of something out of nothing, I like to have facts to back it up.

There are a lot of articles about the dangers of sandboxes, with very little real science behind them...I don't expect the science to show thousands of kids dying of mesothelioma from sandboxes. However, given the prevalence of 'danger' articles that appear when searching for where to buy sandbox sand, I wondered if there was ANY evidence of kids dying. Again, my assumption is that the answer is no, but I don't have anything to back that up.

Last edited by Jman; 06-18-2015 at 04:23 PM.
#16
Old 06-18-2015, 05:08 PM
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How in the name of pluperfect hell does asbestos get into sandbox sand?

Here's a report from the New England Journal of Medicine from 1986:

Quote:

Asbestos in play sand.

ABSTRACT A letter in the New England Journal of Medicine (Oct. 2 issue) stated that a carbonate sand marketed in New Jersey was contaminated with 2 to 4 percent tremolite asbestos. The authors were called on by one of the federal agencies to repeat the analysis of this sand, specifically for its asbestos content. The sand was pulverized and immersed in oils with known refractive indexes, and the predominant amphibole was characterized by polarized light microscopy. The optical characteristics were noted, and the indexes of refraction were measured and found to be consistent with tremolite. On the basis of optical characterization, the authors concluded that all the tremolite visualized with light microscopy consisted of large, single cleavage fragments and was not asbestiform. They used the technique of x-ray diffraction, as did the author of the original report, which showed the presence of an amphibole mineral (probably tremolite) in the carbonate sand. The technique was not used, and cannot be used, to distinguish between the tremolite habits (asbestiform or nonasbestiform). An acid-insoluble residue, recovered from the carbonate sand, was examined by analytic electron microscopy. The tremolite grains were observed to consist of single untwinned, crystalline fragments. Few defects were noted. Selected area electron diffraction nets were indicative of fragments lying near or at the common amphibole cleavage plane. These characteristics are consistent with cleavage fragments and not asbestos. Aspect ratios reflected short particles (less than 5.1). On the basis of their examination of the carbonate play sand, they conclude that it did not contain tremolite asbestos.

Asbestos in play sand.. Available from: http://researchgate.net/publicat...s_in_play_sand [accessed Jun 18, 2015].
N Engl J Med. 1986 Oct 2;315(14):891.

http://researchgate.net/publicat...s_in_play_sand

End result -- no dangerous asbestos

Here's a report on NOA (Naturally Occurring Asbestos) from quarries:

Lee, Richard J., et al. "Naturally occurring asbestos—a recurring public policy challenge." Journal of Hazardous materials 153.1 (2008): 1-21.


http://researchgate.net/profile/...38f93bba56.pdf



The result seems to be that if you crush rock from these quarries, it can have asbestos in it.



Most articles citing the above two pieces don't seem to be addressing playbox sand, but this one does


Webber, James S., Richard Janulis, and Samuel Syrotynski. "Examining play sand products for asbestos contamination." Bulletin of environmental contamination and toxicology 45.4 (1990): 486-494.

You can read the first two pages here:

http://link.springer.com/article/10....LI=true#page-1

They reveal that the asbestos sand from the original 1986 report was voluntarily withdrawn from the market. I can't read their conclusions, since I can't get to the end, but since they talk about the difficulty of making the measurement and general effects, I assume they didn't find anything.


The three articles that, in turn, cite this one don't seem to have anything about asbestos being found in playbox sand.


I find it hard to believe that this is a problem. If your sand comes from the usual kind of sand pits, it's not being generated by crushing potentially asbestos-bearing rocks (crushing rocks takes work and effort. Easier and cheaper to use existing sand).



This reminds me of the reports of asbestos in crayons. Again, you have to wonder how asbestos would get into a product that doesn't really involve refractory materials or the kind of rock that would have asbestos in it (crayons are made of wax plus coloring material). According to Snopes, the report doesn't hold up:

http://snopes.com/medical/toxins/crayons.asp
#17
Old 06-18-2015, 05:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duckster View Post
Don't ever take your kids to the beach. Not ever. Silicosis and cancer everywhere.
Here's a sobering statistic: 2500 Americans a day die at the beach.

Granted, that day was June 6, 1944.
#18
Old 06-18-2015, 05:17 PM
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Here's the US Consumer Product Safety report itself on asbestos in crayons.

http://cpsc.gov/PageFiles/108033/crayons.pdf

If you simply google "asbestos in crayons:" you get a lot of reports claiming that it's a big problem. According to USCPSC (and Snopes), it's not.
#19
Old 06-18-2015, 05:24 PM
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Thanks, CalMeachem.
#20
Old 06-18-2015, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by core View Post
1. Buy the cheapest sand you can find
2. Put the child in it

It's pretty simple really. I don't remember kids in my neighborhood dropping like flies because of silica. I would be far more worried about animal/human droppings in the sandbox, and especially sandworms.
Learn the weirding ways of the Fremen, then you can control the sandworms. And once the sandworms are under control, then you can control the spice. And he who controls the spice controls the universe. However, cat turds remain a problem...
#21
Old 06-18-2015, 07:59 PM
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Asbestos - please EVERYONE - look it up!

Is harmful only if inhaled.

Only tiny fibers can become airborne, and you have to breathe the stuff for a looooong time to get enough to clog your lungs or cause cancer.

Fill the damned sandbox and let the kid play!

Prop 65 was sabotaged by industry so as to include simply everything - to the point that it is virtually meaningless. They actually tried to get it to cover chemical found in drinking water, but that was shot down.
#22
Old 06-18-2015, 08:00 PM
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p.s. kids will recognize cat poop. they can also operate a litter scoop.
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