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The Real Deal: Is Play Sand Dangerous?

Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 10:24 PM EDT
SCHENECTADY - A summer staple in backyards across our region has now been slapped with a frightening warning.  Some packages of play sand sold a big box retailers like Walmart and Home Depot have an alert telling parents it could cause cancer.  Experts tell CBS6 though, that's not the whole story. 

Nothing says summer like playing in the sand.  "They love it, they play in it everyday" says Rebbecca Henriksen a mother of two from Schenectady.  Lalia Case, who has two kids under the age of 5, agrees, "my kids absolutely love playing in the sand," she says. 

But as you head to the store to buy sand to fill-up that backyard sandbox for your kids, you may notice a warning on the bag that reads: "This product contains Crystalline Silica, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and other substances which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm."

"Hearing it, does concern me," says Henriksen.  "I have really never looked at the back of the packaging but yes, I guess it would concern me" adds Case.  But a local toxicologist says the warning is misleading and parents shouldn't be concerned. 

"It doesn't pose any hazard for those of us who are playing in it and have been playing in it for years," says Dr. Heather Long who is toxicologist at Albany Medical Center.  Crystalline Silica is a mineral that washes down the mountains and settles along the coastlines.  It's at every beach you bring your kids to.  So, why does the State of California require the warning?  "Pounding Crystalline Silica, such as sand blasting it or other types of occupational exposures, does pose a risk to those workers who are exposed to high levels of this," says Dr. Long but it has to be very high levels for a very long period of time. "I have two boys and I am never happier than when they are playing in the sandbox for hours," Dr. Long says. 

There are companies who seem to be trying to capitalize off of parents concerns about the warning and mineral who now offer "Safe-Sand" which is free of Crystalline Silica.  Dr. Long says you're paying extra to protect against something that's not dangerous to your child. 

Here's the Real Deal:  Don't waste your money on the expensive stuff.  The play sand you find at any big box retailer is safe and ready to be used to build sand-castles this summer.  The Real Deal: Is Play Sand Dangerous?


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