Finally, the warmer season is here, and thoughts turn to outside play for the whole family. For many of us this includes watching our kids of playing on a play set, swinging happily in the June sun, or scooping up sand in a sand box.
But there are a few potential environmental health problems with this scene. The play set, if bought before 2004, could be treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which according to the Green Guide, “the basis of which is arsenic, a carcinogenic chemical that can leach out of CCA-treated wood onto children’s hands and into soil and groundwater. Although CCA has been banned in residential uses since 2004, millions of CCA-treated play sets still exist.” Not only is this bad for children to be exposed to, but it effects local ecosystems as well.
Also, if you have an older play set in the yard, it could be painted with lead paint (especially if you notice it is peeling). To find out, you can buy a cheap lead test kit at your local hardware store.
Here are some tips for selecting green and healthy play sets if you are in the market for one, or making your CCA treated set as safe as possible.
1. Select a play set made of rot resistant cedar or redwood.
2. Or choose recycled plastic.
3. Select play sets from companies that use only ecologically raised cedar or redwood, or are Forest Stewardship Council Certified.
4. Check out the Green Guide’s list companies that offer safer choices for play sets.
5. If you have a play set that has been treated with CCA, you can your soil for arsenic (you can buy a test kit from the Environmental Working Group) to see if it exceeds safe levels. Treat the play set with a water based sealant every six months to limit exposure, and make sure your kids wash their hands after they play on it.
6. If you are considering taking it down, please read this from the Green Guide first.
So what about sand? Over at Non-Toxic Kids, yesterday I wrote about the serious health concerns with buying and using commercial play sand (crushed rock), and some safer options.
To learn more, here is an article with some links for more information and some similar tips for dealing with CCA treated decks and play sets, and here is another article about this with more good tips from Education.com.
well i am certainly depressed after reading this. I thought playing outside was a good thing for the little tots. thank goodness you have brought this serious matter to our attention. thanks a million! what about grits? could we use that for a safer “sand”? if anyone knows please comment
Jennifer Lance says
Victoria, you can buy safe sand here:
We use it in my preschool program, and it is very high quality. It does make a little dust though.
Kat Eden says
I am SO excited to find this site! I work for education.com so I found you all through your link to our site (thanks!) but now I can’t stop reading! I’m really inspired by the possibility to “get a little greener every day”. I have to admit that it sometimes feels overwhelming to make all the huge changes needed to reduce our family’s carbon foot print. But I’m learning from your site that we can take small, but meaningful, steps every day in that direction! Thanks!
Hi Kat! I’m so glad you found the site. Yes, it is good to remember that every little step to live more green is a step in the right direction. We are all human, and Rome wasn’t built in a day! Thanks for commenting and visiting.