We calm your concerns about silica sand and silicosis.
I have been searching for the safest sand for my child’s sandbox. I have concerns about silica sand and silicosis. Can you recommend a product?
—CHRISTY KOPPISCH, SAN DIEGO
Debra Lynn Dadd replies:
Sand is a loose granular material made from particles of silica, coral and shells, depending on location. Silica is the second most common mineral in the earth’s crust and a major component of many rocks and mineral ores. Overexposure to dust containing microscopic silica particles can cause the lung disease silicosis. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health states, “Typical sand found at the beach does not pose a silicosis threat.”
I could find no reference to any danger from exposure to sand in children’s sandboxes. Persons at risk are typically workers in industries where silica dust is created—and then only after five to ten years of eight-hours-a-day exposure. Sand in sandboxes is generally not being hammered, pounded, or blasted in ways that would create dust.
To obtain safe sand, purchase beach sand rather than quarried sand, which may contain impurities (I did find a report of sand being recalled because it may contain asbestos). If you want to sterilize it, pour boiling water over the sand, then dry it out or bake it at 250 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven. It’s a lot of work if you have a large volume of sand. You could spread the sand in a thin layer on a big piece of black plastic and leave it in the sun on a hot day. Sterilized, screened beach sand can also be purchased; one source is www.yardright.com/sand.htm
DEBRA LYNN DADD is an internationally known expert on healthy home environments and author of Home, Safe Home (Putnam, 1997).
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