Safe Play Sand
Children love to play in the sand, but have you ever bought a bag of play sand? If you live in California, the bag of play sand is labeled with a Proposition 65 warning label telling you that it contains “chemicals known to cause cancer in the state of California.” Play sand contains crystalline silica, which has been identified as a human carcinogen; however, there have been no reported cases of children developing cancer from play sand. In addition, play sand contains traces of the mineral tremolite, a form of the human carcinogen asbestos. Philip Landrigan, M.D., director of the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, as quoted in the Green Guide, states malignant mesothelioma—a lung cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos—is extremely sensitive to limited exposure. “Even very small doses of asbestos exposure,” Landrigan says, “can increase the risk of malignant mesothelioma for four or five or six decades.” As expected, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) fails to see a problem with play sand.

Safe Sand is a fine white playsand, but unlike crushed quartz, it is a feldspathic sand. Our finely gradated and clean play sand is ideal for use in children’s sand boxes. Our beautiful white sand is the perfect texture for creating sand castles and sand sculptures.

What California says about crystalline silica:

The State of California requires the above warning label on playsand containing crystalline silica. That is because much of the playsand found in today's stores is not natural sand, but actually derived from quarried quartz rocks. Children, who have developing lungs, breathe in crystalline silica dust as they play in the sand. Frequent sandbox play creates continued exposure to this known carcinogen.

What OSHA says about crystalline silica:

Silica, Crystalline Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica. More than one million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica, and each year more than 250 die from silicosis. There is no cure for the disease, but it is 100 percent preventable if employers, workers, and health professionals work together to reduce exposures.

OSHA Website for more information

EPA website for more information

National Health and Safety Performance Standards [emphasis added]:

Standards For Sandboxes/Sand Play Areas

  1. Sand play areas must be distinct from landings areas for any equipment such as slides, swings, etc.
  2. All sandboxes shall be kept covered when not under adult surveillance. This covering shall be secured to prevent entry by children or animals, and sufficient to prevent contamination by solids or liquids.
  3. Sandboxes shall be equipped with constant and effective drainage systems and be constructed to present no safety hazards.
  4. Sand shall not be of the compacting type and should be replaced by fine pea gravel that is smooth surfaced. Any media placed in sandboxes shall present no preventable health or safety hazards by its nature or structure.
  5. Sterilized sand or pea gravel should be obtained for sandbox use.
  6. Sand that becomes contaminated shall be replaced with sterilized sand or pea gravel or the contaminant removed, where it is possible, to capture and dispose of all the contaminant. Treatment of sand with chemicals to attempt to sterilize it within the sandbox is not recommended.
  7. Sandboxes/sand play areas shall be inspected for signs of contamination and safety hazards before each use.
  8. Sand in boxes and play areas shall be replaced as needed and at least every two years.

Crystalline silica: A colorless mineral, also called quartz. It is an ingredient in sand and flint, which are used in making glass, cement, and concrete. Exposure to crystalline silica dust can cause lung diseases such as silicosis.

Crystalline silica up close.
1000 times magnification of sand dust sampled from a bag of common playsand. These particles are small enough to be trapped in lung tissue.


Crystalline silica, also known as quartz, is a natural compound in the earth's crust and is a basic component of sand and granite. Silicosis is a disease of the lungs caused by breathing dust containing crystalline silica particles. The dust can cause fibrosis or scar tissue formations in the lungs that reduce the lungs' ability to work to extract oxygen from the air. There is no cure for this disease, thus prevention is the only answer. Every year two million workers in the U.S. are exposed to crystalline silica, which can cause silicosis, a disabling and sometimes fatal disease. About 300 deaths are attributed to silicosis annually. Inhaling airborne crystalline silica dust also has been associated with other diseases such as tuberculosis and lung cancer.

Health Effects of Inhaled Crystalline and Amorphous Silica (from the EPA website)

ABSTRACT: Recently, public concern regarding nonoccupational or ambient silica exposure, mainly to crystalline silica, has emerged making it important to evaluate background and ambient concentrations. Ambient emissions of silica rarely are estimated or measured in air pollution studies of particulate matter.

Crystalline silica is widely used in industry and has long been recognized as a major occupational hazard, causing disability and deaths among workers in several industries. This is a health risk assessment covering the causes and studies of crystalline silica exposure.

Where the sands of time are made to flow a little safer...