Lines in the Sand
A few weeks back, in preparation for summer’s humid dog days and toddler boredom, I made the wise decision to rejuvenate the weedy, and neglected play structure lumbering in a state of paralysis in my backyard. This is/was a multitiered process that required purchasing a few hundred pounds of sand for the sand box. Simple enough, however my wife (in her infinite Web searching and wisdom), informed me that the benign play sand–the stuff that we have all been playing with for years–is often loaded with a substance called crystalline silica, which has been deemed a known carcinogen. Bummer!
According to OSHA, overexposure to Crystalline Silica (got to admit that the name alone makes it sound exquisite and nearly irresistible to children) leads to Silicosis, a disabling lung disease that is often fatal. Point taken. However, there are alternatives to providing your child with a cubic yard of granular danger. A few select manufacturers, like Safe Sand, offer silica-free sand, that seem relatively harmless. But the price point for this premium sand is unreasonably high, and this is before you calculate the shipping costs for a few hundred pounds of sand. The end result would be a sandbox that could more affordably be filled with pine nuts than sand.
This dilemma moved me to try to find a silica-free alternative locally, whether it be sand, mulch, or something equally as malleable as sand. Long story short, I was unable to find anything that was conclusively silica-free and/or assuredly safe. I wound up purchasing 300 pounds of questionable sand (one sales associate said it was silica-free, the other said it wasn’t) that will probably sit in my garage unused. Problem unsolved!
The aforementioned quandary reminded me of a recent New York Times article that sited a fairly new phenomenon called “green noise.” This is essentially a glut of well-intended information aimed at environmentally aware consumers, that instead of helping, just leads to confusion, overwhelm, and consumer stasis or inaction. In some respects, I am a victim (by my own design) of the low, assaultive, static buzz of “green noise.” My intentions to make a wise, and healthy choice for my child has lead to frustration, befuddlement, and the purchase of something I was trying to avoid from the beginning.
It is my sincere hope that nothing in this blog contributes to this phenomenon or causes undue confusion. But I have to ask…is anyone else feeling the noise?
Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.