Sandbox Sand might seem to be a straight forward requirement for a sandbox. After all, what would a sandbox be without sand? You purchase your sandbox, or the materials to make a sandbox, and when it is done you purchase sandbox sand to put into it.
Several years ago, when I finished building my children's sandbox, I went to a local landscape supply center and purchased some very nice, clean sand, to do just that. So why am I paying special attention to sand?
Because, I would be remiss, if I didn't at least inform you of reports that point out the potential dangers of sandbox sand. After all, we're talking about those that are nearest and dearest to us; our children.
The culprit that's causing the concern is freshly - fractured crystalline silica such as that emitted during mining and processing. This is sand that has been manufactured by crushing or grinding rock into small, fine particles, sometimes very fine. It is intended primarily for industrial use.
This "produced sand" is different than "natural sand" that has been naturally weathered, and rounded, over the years of time. The produced sand particles have jagged edges and there are more ultra-fines.
It is these very fine particles that have been identified as the problem. They are referred to as "respirable" and can easily be breathed into the lungs and have the potential to cause an irreversible condition known as, Silicosis.
Silicosis is simply defined as a respiratory disease caused by breathing in (inhaling) silica dust. The lungs are not capable of expelling this dust, so over a period of time it accumulates in the lungs, causing a variety of complications.
This condition has been recorded in workers associated with industries such as: mining, glass manufacturing or sand blasting, and usually takes 10 - 15 years of exposure before manifesting the symptoms.
So how does this relate to sandbox sand? Well, The State of California, Proposition 65, requires; "Chemicals, or substances, known to the state to cause cancer..........", must have a clear and reasonable warning, that is, label.
I'm pretty sure that if you were purchasing a bag that was labelled "playsand", and it had the above warning label, you would naturally take a step back. Because of the known problems with industrial workers, even bags that are labelled "playsand" are obliged to have this label if they are a derivative of fractured crystalline silica.
Yet information I gathered from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states, and I summarize, that children's products can't be labelled as hazardous. If they are hazardous they are automatically banned. They further mention on their website that their knowledge of crystalline silica is based on occupational exposures, that is, long-term exposure to high levels.
Again, because it has to do with children, we want to be careful and do the right thing. We want to protect them. Because of that, I did a lot of research to see if I could find anything definitive on this subject. I could not, so you will have to exercise your own judgement.
In fact, "processed sand" is course and dusty, and doesn't make very good sandbox sand anyway.
As I mentioned earlier, I purchased the sand for my children's sandbox at a local landscape supplier. It was nice, granular, clean sand and served us well for many years. If you are going to consider doing the same you can ask your supplier where they get their sand from.
If you don't have the option of purchasing sand this way, I have provided the following link to an alternative sandbox sand product for you to check out.
I have also seen pea gravel mentioned a few times as an alternative to sandbox sand. Those that mentioned it said that their children were fine with it, just make sure it's clean. Just a few thoughts on pea gravel. Obviously you won't be making sand castles with it as it can't be molded. The other thought I had would be with toddlers. Toddlers are sometimes curious little people and want to try different things in their mouths. I don't know if it's the textures they want to experience, or what.
One of my children was like that (sometimes you don't find out until you change their diaper!). In the case of toddlers pea gravel might present a choking hazard and should be restricted to larger sandboxes and older kids.
However, I was told that cats steer clear of pea gravel. Apparently they don't like to use it as their litter box. I was also told that's why the city where our family lives uses pea gravel at all of the playgrounds in the city parks. This would certainly be an added bonus, but not one that I have enough personal experience with to give a definitive recommendation.
In summary, don't let the sandbox sand controversy stop you from providing your children with the enjoyment of a sandbox.