Scutt Law, PLLC’s Consumer Awareness Series, Topic Number One
CARCINOGENS IN YOUR CHILD’S PLAY SAND AND CALIFORNIA’S PROPOSITION 65 WARNING LABELS
Scutt Law, PLLC’s CAVEAT EMPTOR (which means “buyer beware” in Latin) topic this week examines the dangers of play sand. Play sand is used in children’s sand boxes, and can be purchased at your local home improvement store or big box retailer. Many companies are adding the now all too familiar labels to their bags of play sand that read, “Warning: this product contains chemicals known in the State of California to cause cancer.” Not exactly something you want your child to be playing with on a daily basis, right?
First, why are these ominous California warning labels popping up all over our products that are located in Texas, and in other states outside of The Golden State? According to California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) website, Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The Proposition was intended by its authors to protect California citizens and the State’s drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals. Proposition 65 requires the Governor to publish, at least annually, a list of chemicals known in the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.
OEHHA does state on its website that, “the fact that a product bears a Proposition 65 warning does not mean by itself that the product is unsafe. For additional information about the product, contact the product manufacturer.” In other words, you can think of Prop 65 more as a “right to know” law than a pure product safety law. It allows consumers and their families to decide on their own if they want to purchase and/or use a product.
So, why are consumers in states other than California seeing the warning labels on products? Probably because big box retailers and home improvement stores sell items such as play sand in California and in other states, and/or because the product’s manufacturer is located in the State of California.
Why is play sand considered carcinogenic? Because most play sand sold today in retail and home improvement stores is not made of the same type of sand you and I used to play in as kids. It is manufactured from crystalline silica (a.k.a. quartz). Unlike natural sand that you would find on the beach, which has been “tumbled” by the wind, air and water, sand that is manufactured from quartz has sharp edges that can become embedded in lungs if it is inhaled.
Crystalline silica is considered hazardous under the OSHA Hazard Communications Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200). The material safety data sheet (MSDS) that accompanies play sand from a leading manufacturer lists the potential health effects from inhalation of the sand. Some of these health effects include:
1. Silicosis: Respirable crystalline silica (quartz) can cause silicosis, a fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs. Silicosis may be progressive; it may lead to disability and death;
2. Lung Cancer: Crystalline silica (quartz) inhaled from occupational sources is classified as carcinogenic to humans;
3. Tuberculosis: Silicosis increases the risk of tuberculosis;
4. Autoimmune and Chronic Kidney Diseases: Some studies show excess numbers of cases of scleroderma, connective tissue disorders, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney diseases and end-stage kidney disease in workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica; and
5. Non-Malignant Respiratory Diseases (other than silicosis): Some studies show an increased incidence in chronic bronchitis and emphysema in workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica.
It is more than a little disconcerting that consumers are expected to allow their children to play in this product every day. Although it could be argued that the health problems listed above stem mostly from inhaled quartz, such as from sandblasting and other industrial or occupational uses, consumers do need to be aware of the contents of the products they purchase.
This is the first installment in the ongoing series “Caveat Emptor” by Scutt Law, PLLC. We strive to bring consumers up-to-date and relevant information about consumer products and issues in order to help each “buyer beware” on his or her own terms. UNTIL NEXT TIME, BEWARE AND BE AWARE!
*Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.