With the arrival of summer comes the season of backyard sandboxes and wading pools. Having your own sandbox or wading pool provides convenient and safe fun close to home. However, germs and bacteria can grow and spread through sandboxes and pools if they are not properly cared for and cleaned.
Sandboxes harbor funguses like ringworm and parasites, such as roundworm and tapeworm, said Jeffrey G. Miner, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Bowling Green State University.
The main source of parasites are animal feces in the sand. The best way to keep the sandbox from becoming a litter box is to keep it covered when not in use. Parasites can survive for a long time, but Dr. Miner says that winter conditions should kill most of them. However, changing the sand at the beginning of the season wouldn’t hurt, and washing hands when children come indoors is always a good idea.
A second potential issue with sandboxes, said Dr. Miner, is lead paint contamination. Lead paint chips could be in the sandbox if dirt from around a home painted with lead-based paint is used or if the sandbox is close to the house. Simply place the sandbox away from the house, and buy sandbox sand at a home and garden supply store.
Wading pools without filters can also collect bacteria. Mary Clifton, recreation programs administrator for the Ohio Department of Health, recommends emptying wading pools when not in use. Many different types of bacteria can grow in pools, so keeping them empty and dry between swim sessions is the best practice.
If a child has a fecal accident, the pool should be immediately cleaned with a light bleach solution. Otherwise, no special chemicals or cleaners are necessary.
Backyard sandboxes and small wading pools provide hours of safe fun for kids of all ages. Making sure that they are clean and kept clean will ensure that germs and bacteria, and the health problems they cause, are kept at bay all season long.