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Safety & Prevention

Safety in the Sandbox

​If you have a backyard sandbox, it is important to know the risks and how to keep it safe and clean for your children to enjoy.

Sandbox frames

Sandboxes are safe if constructed and filled with appropriate materials and properly maintained. Sandbox frames should not be made with inexpensive railroad ties. These may cause splinters and may be saturated with creosote, a carcinogen. Nontoxic landscaping timbers or non-wood containers are preferred.

Play sand

In 1986, concern was first expressed that some types of commercially available play sand contained tremolite, a fibrous substance found in some crushed limestone and crushed marble. It was thought that the long-term effects of exposure to tremolite would be identical to those of asbestos. Despite these concerns, however, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) denied a petition prohibiting marketing of play sand containing significant levels of tremolite. The CSPC currently has no standards or labeling requirements regarding the source or content of sand.

How to know if your play sand is safe:

  • Buy only natural river sand or beach sand.
  • Avoid products made from:
    • Crushed limestone
    • Crushed marble
    • Crushed crystalline silica (quartz)
    • Other products that are obviously dusty
  • When there is doubt, parents may send a sample to a laboratory to determine whether the sand contains tremolite or crystalline silica. Information about reliable laboratories can be obtained from the EPA Regional and State Asbestos Coordinators.

Preventing contamination

  • Children aren't the only ones who love the sand…so do insects and animals. Once installed, a sandbox should be covered when it isn’t in use. 
  • If sand gets wet, it can harbor bacteria. Make sure to let the sand dry out thoroughly before covering it for the night.
  • Sand should be raked regularly to remove debris, clumps, or other foreign material.  
  • Do not allow your household pets to play with your child in the sandbox. They may mistake it for the litter box.
Last Updated
Adapted from Pediatric Environmental Health, 3rd Edition (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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