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Does your play sand contain crystalline silica or other harmful materials?

Posted by Jerry Bergosh on

Here’s an email I received recently that really captured the essence of the issue if play sand is safe. My response to Amanda from Connecticut is long but worth reading if you want the facts – thanks The Jurassic Sandman

Does Your Play Sand Contain Silica?

From: Amanda
Date: Mon, April 09, 2018 10:00 pm

Hi there,
Does your sands contain crystalline silica, asbestos or tremolite? Or any other potentially harmful materials that I have no clue about? Thank you.

I just wanted to get my kid a sandbox for her birthday. Now it’s complicated.

Understanding the truth about silica in sand

 On Apr 10, 2018, at 11:30 PM, <> <> wrote:

Hi Amanda-

This is Geologist Jerry, owner of Jurassic Play Sands. Thank you for the inquiry and questions.

This is a very technical issue and one I am extremely familiar with. I will do my best to answer your questions.

And I can understand your frustration when you said, "Now it's complicated".

Let me assure you it isn't complicated but that is the Geologist in me that ran an analytical laboratory for years and must understand, and comply with government regulations as well as much of the misinformation that is out there.

First, I'll answer your questions directly. Yes, most of our sands (and most sands sold in home improvement and big box stores) have crystalline silica in them because they contain quartz sand grains (which is the common name for crystalline silica). These are the same quartz grains found on 99.9% of the ocean, lakes and stream beaches in the US.

And no, none of our sands contain asbestos, tremolite or any other harmful materials!

Now I would like to shed some light on the more accurate facts concerning crystalline silica because much of all the 'information' out there is re-reported by people without a clear understanding of the facts. 

Additionally, some manufacturers of alternative play sand materials often refer to cancer warnings on bags or cite California Prop 65 warnings in an effort to raise concern but don’t bother to describe why the warning or who it is intended for.

Fact 1: It is not the crystalline silica that is the concern of OHSA or the California Prop 65 legislation. It is the 'respirable' portion of that material – the tiniest of particles that can get deep into your lungs.

These are generally created when sand is crushed or pulverized or used in sand-blasting operations. It is these processes that create the respirable dust of concern.

Most of our Jurassic Sands come from US deserts (or mountain ranges) where Mother Nature makes our sands nearly perfectly pure and they aren’t crushed or pulverized.

Fact 2: These warnings are for industrial workers who have extended periods of exposure every day, 8 hours/day for 20-40 years. That's what the epidemiological studies have determined.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (US CPSC) has looked at the issue of crystalline silica and respirable silica, and decided it was not a hazard to children using play sand in a sandbox.

Fact 3: Makers of alternative play sand material such as feldspar, marble and limestone don't bother to explain this because they rely on people not digging deep enough to understand the what the warnings are for.

And I'm only aware of one manufacturer that actually discloses their play sand contains nuisance dust. Nuisance dust occurs because the process they use to manufacture the sand makes dust, and dust is one of the worst triggers of asthma and allergies.

I realize this is an exceptionally long email but the geologist in me wants families that want to have a sandbox to have all the facts.

Your questions are valid and I too share your frustration that ‘all you wanted to do was get her a sandbox for her birthday’.

It is a combination of the misinformation and lack of understanding on the web that seems to make it complicated when it isn't!

Playing in the sand is one of the most valuable developmentally-appropriate activities a child can do. The US CPSC even publishes a product age-rating chart and play sand is recommended for children 12 months and older. 

The Toy Industry Association (the trade group that monitors toy safety) says 6 months and many early childhood professionals recognize the age when an infant can sit up as an acceptable minimum age to use sand.  

This government agency and trade association wouldn't make these recommendations if there was a concern to children.

If I haven't totally burned you out on the details and you want to read more info on this subject go to my website links (When children can begin to play in a sandbox and What's silica sand and is it safe?). Also, watch our video series on How to Pick the Best Play Sand for your sandbox!

Yours truly-

Geologist Jerry Bergosh

aka The Jurassic Sandman

Licensed Professional Geologist,

State of Utah #5554339


PS: This is our 27th year selling the best play sand Mother Nature can make. We are just the geologists that find it and are a small company that prides itself in quality and facts. Please feel free to let me know if you have more questions.

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  • I was just investigating if beach sand contains silica that will promote unwanted brown algae growth in my aquarium and stumbled across your response. I don’t think it has much to do with my query but I still read the whole thing and appreciated the matter of fact nature of your response. There are so many “expert bloggers” who know nothing these days and so few experts who aren’t being heard. Kudos to you.

    Francis on
  • Thanks for reiterating my disbeliefs on what I have heard from work mates that any format of sand is dangerous when actually it’s not . Your company has now put bad thoughts about sands and somehow erased them from my mind . ☺ I didn’t actually realise that it comes down to how humans use sand out of its natural form. IE – left alone it’s no bigger risk than being attacked by a great white shark. . Many thanks Campbell NZ

    Campbell on
  • Well said and thanks for a reasonable and sensible explanation. As a recent “victim” of prop 65 legislation, I can tell you that much legislation and entities that back it are out of control. Warning, coffee can be hot!

    David Graupman on

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