“The lethal dangers of sand”

by Walter Olson on June 2, 2009

Wear appropriate protective clothing, “do not let this chemical enter the environment”, and if you come in contact with it, “immediately flush skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes while removing contaminated clothing and shoes”. It’s ocean sand! MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheets) are by and for lawyers: “Very few chemists, in my experience, spend much time with these forms at all, preferring to get their information from almost any other source.” [Derek Lowe via Virginia Postrel]

More: Interesting comments, including one on ionized water (if exposed, “flush the contaminated area with water”) and this from reader John: “Good news: if the sand is intended for use by children under 12, as of August 14 the sand itself will have to be permanently labeled with a batch number so it can be easily recalled.”

{ 12 comments }

1 Xmas 06.02.09 at 5:50 am

My favorite bit:

California Prop 65
The following statement(s) is(are) made in order to comply with the California Safe Drinking Water Act:
WARNING: This product contains Sand, a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer.
California No Significant Risk Level: None of the chemicals in this product are listed.

2 Jim Collins 06.02.09 at 8:32 am

The reply about vacuum is my favorite. First runner up is the link to the MSDS concerning ionized water, especially the first aid section where it tells you to flush the contaminated area with water.
On the serious side, has anybody ever wondered how much complying with this adds to the cost of almost anything you buy? I have worked in shops where I was required to have a hazard identification sticker on my coffee cup. We finally went in as a group and purchased coffee mugs with the sticker silk screened on them.

3 Doug 06.02.09 at 8:42 am

I once worked in a law office in which the local fire district continued to send us somewhat harassing letters demanding to know what kind of hazardous materials we have in our office. We finally responded with a snarky letter detailing the number and amount of toner cartridges we had in the office. Never heard any more.

4 John 06.02.09 at 9:31 am

Good news : if the sand is intended for use by children under 12, as of August 14 the sand itself will have to be permanently labeled with the a batch number so it can be easily recalled.

5 No Name Guy 06.02.09 at 10:57 am

Run with it John….

Sand, since it is used in (gasp!!!) sandboxes, a childrens play thing, will have to be tested for lead in addition to being labled as you mention. And woe to Home Depot, Lowes or the mom and pop hardware / construction supply store that sells it to parents to fill their kids backyard sandbox. I guess they’ll have to simply stop selling the stuff.

I wonder how this will square with all those ‘shovel ready’ stimulus projects since most of them will require copious amounts of concrete – one primary ingredent being sand.

6 Mark Biggar 06.02.09 at 3:44 pm

Does this mean that public beaches have to stop selling parking passes to families with children?

7 Greg 06.02.09 at 5:31 pm

Good question. Which raises a wider issue: does the CPSIA apply to facilities that are made available to children under 12? For example, if someone creates a play area for young children, do they need to ensure that all the toys, furnishings, and other equipment meet the CPSIA standards? Does a school need to remove all the existing playground equipment to test it? And to bring the issue back to this thread, is it legal for a beach owner or public park operator to let children under 12 use a sandy beach without testing to ensure the sand meets the lead and phthalate requirements of the CPSIA?

Of course, sand doesn’t naturally contain plastics, but there might be fragments of plastics mixed up in it, and it’s certainly possible that sand grains might contains some amounts of lead-containing minerals. So I wonder if the CPSIA could be interpreted to apply to man-made or natural facilities provided for use to children.

8 Todd Rogers 06.02.09 at 9:10 pm

Well, Greg, I guess that depends on the risk tolerance of which ever plaintiff’s attorney evenutally gets to that point on this list of defendants. Since at least one person thought of it (you) it’s fair to assume that others will as well. I imagine there are play-gym companies that have taken out substantial policies to divert risk of litigation. So, with such spoils, I imagine someone will send up a few trial balloons. Target rich areas just can’t go unchallenged. Do the math.

9 John Burgess 06.03.09 at 12:23 am

OMG! I’ve seen unregulated plastic–not to mention actual petroleum–wash up on beaches where children play. I’ve even seen it on foreign beaches. Will the Foreign Torts Act apply as well?

10 bradley13 06.03.09 at 6:56 am

Consider one further aspect of these warnings: since they are everywhere, they become counterproductive. To take a real example: many foods are now labelled “may contain nuts” just to prevent liability – even if there is essentially zero chance of contamination. To people with a genuine nut allergy, this means more nad more products must be avoided, or else they have to take their lives in their hands by choosing to disbelieve the warnings.

11 Greg 06.03.09 at 10:53 am

bradley13: Exactly right. And for most people, disbelief is what happens. If you warn of risk 1 (a real risk) and risk 2 (an extremely unlikely risk) in equal terms, your goal may be to get people to take risk 2 as seriously as they take risk 1. But logically, if risk 2 is a serious as risk 1, then risk 1 is no more serious than risk 2. And so what in fact happens is that people, who know how unlikely risk 2 is, tend to conclude that risk 1 is equally unlikely and they ignore the warning.

Of course people don’t actually reason it out like that. What happens is that people end up noticing that most of the safety warnings with a product are dealing with risks that are highly unlikely, and can be safely ignored, and they stop taking any safety warnings seriously.

12 BG 06.03.09 at 2:12 pm

Do you think this guy needs a different warning? My kids love these videos from blendtec. They are great.
http://www.youtube.com/user/Blendtec

Get rid of the sand and more kids will move to adult tools for their thrills just like the illegal kid ATV v legal adult size ATV.

Comments on this entry are closed.