Playing in a sandbox brings back fond memories for most adults. It’s a huge part of growing up as a child. Yet, there’s a potential danger with play sand that every parent needs to know. Many brands, sold at home improvement and toy stores, come with a cancer warning. It’s led to play sand alternatives that are sold as safer and healthier for children.
**Disclosure: All opinions in this post are my own. There may be affiliate links. When you make a purchase through one of the affiliates, you support Jenn Strathman’s ongoing efforts to keep you informed on consumer and parenting issues.
Kids love sandboxes. They spend hours digging in the sand, making sand castles, and burying themselves. Then parents spend hours, and sometimes days, getting every last bit of sand off their child! 🙂
Love them or hate them, sandboxes are a big part of growing up. However, I’m going to spoil your fun! There’s a safety issue every parent needs to know about before they let their baby or toddler spend hours in the sandbox.
Play sand often comes with a cancer warning label, known as Proposition 65. This means there’s an ingredient in the product that’s known to cause cancer in the state of California.
Prop 65 cancer warning
Proposition 65 started in 1986. The law alerts consumers to certain chemicals in products. Products that contain ingredients known to cause cancer in California have what’s known as a Proposition (Prop) 65 warning. It’s on everything from play sand to clothing and even electrical wires.
The state of California publishes a list of chemicals that can cause health issues. The list includes natural and synthetic chemicals like additives, dyes, and solvents. There are 900 chemicals on the Proposition 65 list. So you can imagine why so many products have this warning label.
You might look the other way when you see the warning on electrical wires since you’re not putting those in your mouth. I wash my hands after touching products that I know contain the chemicals like Christmas lights. However, sand for a child’s play area? You know the child is going to eat some of the sand. Even if they don’t eat the sand, their hands are in the sand with these potentially dangerous ingredients. Eventually, those hands will make their way to the child’s mouth or face. Why take that risk?
The cancer-causing substances are naturally in some products. In other cases, the manufacturers add them when they add dyes to products. Either way, it’s a warning you need to look for when shopping especially with children’s products. After all, everything goes in their mouth.
Crytalline silica (quartz) is the problem ingredient in play sand that prompts the Prop 65 warning. Despite the warning, manufacturers feel consumers have nothing to worry about. They say the risk is only there when exposed to the chemicals in large quantities, for your job. For example, it might be dangerous if you mine this stuff and work around it all day, potentially inhaling the dust.
However, the potential danger of crystalline silica is still on parents minds. One wrote to me asking about it.
Another parent asks on Home Depot’s website, “Is this sand non-toxic?” The manufacturer of that particular brand, Quikrete, writes back,
“QUIKRETE Play Sand has been washed and dried, and is intended for use primarily in Sand Boxes. The only material in QUIKRETE Play Sand is natural sand – the same as you find on the beach or in river beds. We have safely sold QUIKRETE Play Sand for decades. Like any sand, it may contain some fine particles. You can be confident using QUIKRETE Play Sand; it is washed and dried 100% natural sand.”
Some argue the risk factor is only there if you’re working with the product and inhaling the dust.
Non-toxic play sand
It’s a smaller niche, and these products are pricier than their cancer-causing counterparts. For example, Safe Sand is one of the sandbox alternatives that advertises its toxic free. The cost is $$ for 25 pounds of play sand. In comparison, you can buy 50 pounds of Quikrete play sand at Home Depot, and the price is $.
The products get good reviews. However, some parents say the so-called safe sand is dusty. It’s suggested that you wet down the sand before playing with it. However, you need to be careful because mold can grow.
Sandtastik makes another product that’s labeled as indoor therapy play sand. This is supposed to have less dust. It’s the same price as the regular 25-pound bag. $$
It’s significantly more expensive for non-toxic play sand, but there’s obviously a market for it. A price worth paying for some parents.
You can try out the sand by purchasing a small quantity. Sandtastik offers a 2-pound bag for $. A small investment to find out if it’s worth the price to fill the whole sandbox. However, you are paying a lot per pound. It’s cheaper to buy the 25 pounds at once.
Price Guide: $ 0-20
Clothing cancer warning
As a mom, I am more aware of the products I use in my home, put on my child, and use on my own body. However, it’s easy to miss these labels. Whether it’s play sand or a piece of clothing. You always need to look.
I almost missed a big warning on a shirt I bought. The back of the clothing tag contains a Prop 65 warning. I just happened to take a closer look at the tag and saw it.
The warning alarmed me. Why would I knowingly want to wear a shirt with dangerous chemicals in it that could cause cancer? Some argue the chemicals really won’t harm you in such small quantities. However, as a consumer, I am not going to knowingly buy and wear a product that uses chemicals on the Prop 65 list. I don’t care how small a risk it is.
The fashion industry is aware of the consumer backlash. The California Fashion Association writes on its site that Prop 65, “continues to be a scourge of the fashion industry.” The industry is trying to reform the law.
Why are there so many Prop 65 warning labels?
Lawsuits may be the reason we see so many Prop 65 warning labels on clothing and play sand. There is always an industry looking to make a buck off a law. It happens with Prop 65, and it happens with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Both laws aim to help people. However, there are serial plaintiffs looking to make money.
With the ADA, lawyers target small businesses who do not have ADA upgrades. Granted the sued businesses have ADA compliance issues but is a lawsuit the answer? Many of the businesses will tell you the ADA tester is not a regular customer. He or she visited the store for the sole purpose of scoping out problems for a lawsuit. Many businesses feel they should have a window to make the ADA upgrades.
Just like the ADA, Proposition 65 is a law that serves a good purpose. However, there are lots of lawsuits. Are lawyers exploiting the law? I’m not here to debate that, but there’s no doubt the legal issues are driving some of these warning labels.
When there are lots of lawsuits, there are usually calls for reform. While there is a push to reform Prop 65, until that happens, expect to see warning labels in more places.
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As with everything, you have to weigh the pros and cons of every warning. As a mom, I use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database of products. While it focuses mainly on health and beauty products, that’s important when you have a baby. I always want the best for her, and frankly I’m alarmed at everything that’s in some of the more common shampoos and baby lotions. There’s an entire section for babies.
With more than 70,000 products in the database, it’s easy to see what’s in a product and the available data and risk level for that ingredient.
Research is so important when we’re talking about children. As a mom, the Prop 65 warning labels change my buying decisions. This happens especially with products my child uses or I wear. I won’t buy clothing with the warning or a child’s product. It’s just not worth the risk to me.
Does the Prop 65 warning impact your buying decisions? Share your thoughts below in the comments or on Facebook.