Special Assignment: Playing with Danger?

By: Lynnsey Gardner Email
By: Lynnsey Gardner Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock, February 4, 2008

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- You can buy it in just about any home improvement store. It is legal to own. If you have kids, they've most likely played in it, and it could be dangerous to their health. We're talking about playsand, the same stuff found in sandboxes all over the country.

Growing up, we all probably played in heaping mounds of this same type of sand, but the consumer product safety commission is up to their toes right now testing playsand to see if it is a hazard to your health.

It's the type of fun that is almost a must for most children, children like 6-year-old Josiah Gerrard "I would like play with it and put it in cups and stuff."

And you can bet he wasn't alone in the sandbox "Probably throw sand out of the box, throw the toys out of the box, throw the cars out of the box." adds his 7-year-old brother Caleb Gerrard.

Okay, so we get the picture..lots of sand everywhere with these two.

But, have you ever taken a closer look at where it comes from?

News 12 found bags and bags of playsand at almost every home improvement store in our area; just waiting for you to find it a home.
But,flip it over and there it is in fine print-a warning label telling you in plain English this product is potentially harmful.

Playground sand can be considered dangerous because a primary ingredient in it is crystalline silica, which has been classified by a government agency as a carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer.

"There is a concern when the silica gets crushed, it gets into very small particles." says Dr. Greene Shepherd. He's a clinical toxicologist with the Medical College of Georgia.
He says the silica in question comes from crushed quartz rock. "If you inhale enough of it, it can increase your risk of cancer because it irritates the tissues and leads to problems over time."

And he says kids are at a higher risk than adults. "Because kids, when they are stomping and playing in it, they may be stirring up dust; they breathe faster relative to adults and they are down at a very low level."

"You wouldn't think sand would hurt anybody!" says Isabell Beverly. She is a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, and by now, a sandbox is a very familiar sight. For her, the warning of any potential harm was disturbing. "Yes it is shocking! I don't want anything to happen to my children!"

But Dr. Shepherd says you have to keep the warning in perspective. "Lots of things are carcinogens. Are you getting enough of a dose to really be important? We don't really know the answer."

Dr. Shepherd says for now, he's comfortable letting his two children still play in a sandbox. "I know it's a short period of time, and they aren't in there eight hours a day."

It's the same school of thought parent Brent Gerrard and his wife used with their three children. "If some further test come out and show there are a lot of things happening because of it, then sure, I think everybody needs to know, but i think the warning label probably should be sufficient. We need to make our own decisions."

Dr. Shepherd reiterates it's the crystalline silica dust, or CS dust, in the playsand that creates the potential problem. The state of California decided to pull playsand with CS from the market all together.

Dr. Shepherd says the Consumer Product Safety Commission is examining the potential risk that playsand may pose, and he says if they think it's a big risk, they will pull it from the market all together.

If you're looking for an alternative Dr. Shepherd recommends beach sand or river sand. News 12 found on line, a website called safesand.com, which sells sand without crystalline silica in the mix, but it will cost you. A 50 pound bag could will run you around 60 bucks with shipping whereas this 50 pound bag with the crystalline silica only runs about 4 dollars at the local stores.

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  • by Mitch Location: Martinez on Feb 5, 2008 at 09:18 AM
    Let's see, silica is a by product of hard rock (gold, coal, etc) mining. Miners exposed to silica dust worked 10 to 12 hour days for years before contracting silicosis (the "cancer" referred to). If a child is spending that much time in the sandbox then the problem is not with the sand it's with the parent for not finding more activities for the child to do! When will we tell the "life police" to get a life? We need to acknowledge that life is inherently hazardous, we need to accept that and get through it the best we can.
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