View Full Version : Child safety and sanding

Drew Sanderson
02-09-2012, 8:38 AM
My three year old son attends a Montessori school and I recently received a newsletter and in one part it said "The children are very excited about the new addition to our welcoming hallway. The vanity will be refinished by our toddlers. We will be sanding and painting for our auction item this year."

Instantly the woodworking safety side of me was activated thinking about all the wood dust and wondering about current finish is that the children are physically removing.

Am I overreacting or should I point them to some safety articles? I really just need a reality check. I honestly think most people think that sanding wood is harmless.

Mark Rakestraw
02-09-2012, 9:03 AM
I would definitely say something. For fresh wood I might just point out the fact wood dust is harmful and emphasize the importance of clean-up and having the kids wear decent dust masks. Sanding an old finish I would try my best to have them reconsider, and not have my kid participate. If they need a woodworking project maybe you can help them come up with something more appropriate? Maybe I'm overreacting, after all a three year old's attention span won't have them at it for hours (maybe minutes?), but still it seems like good practice should be instilled.

johnny means
02-09-2012, 9:51 AM
I would say your worrying about nothing. Exactly, What harm do you think might occur in a few minutes if sanding? The vast majority of woods are not harmful amd those that are require long term exposure to have any real affects. Wood dust can be an irritant, especially for asthmatics. So a dust a mask might be useful for those prone to attacks.

Keeping things in perspective, the most dangerous thing your child will do that day will be the ride to school.

Mike Heidrick
02-09-2012, 10:31 AM
My Megan would be taking the Legos out and making a knock down spray booth.

Prashun Patel
02-09-2012, 10:37 AM
I think you should request that they at least do the sanding and finishing outside. I'd suggest that they use a cheap box fan to blow some of the dust away from the area, but that poses its own safety problems for little fingers and minds mesmerized by spinning propellers.

I think the bigger concern is whether those toddlers will be able to sand with the grain ;)

Neil Brooks
02-09-2012, 11:45 AM
I sorta' think ... if it were me ... I would take a few minutes to chat with the appropriate teacher.

I'd just like to get a sense of whether they understand the *possible* risks associated, and what plans they have to minimize them.

If they know, and have a plan that seemed thoughtful, I'd feel better.
If, OTOH, they seemed clueless, I might take a minute to discuss the issue with them, and suggest a few precautions they might take.

Personally, though, I would try to avoid assuming, one way or the other, until I knew what they did or didn't know.

Good luck !

Daniel Smith
02-09-2012, 11:55 AM
How long do you think sanding will hold the attention of 3 year olds? I know for me, I want to stop after a couple of minutes and I have 40 years on them. I just don't see a concerted, productive effort by the class that's going to put a significant amount of dust into the air.

John Coloccia
02-09-2012, 11:59 AM
I'm thinking that the odds of 3 year olds making any appreciable sanding dust are pretty slim. After 10 minutes one of the teachers is going to realize the error, sand it themselves and let the little'uns take one swipe each with the paint brush.

Neil Brooks
02-09-2012, 12:13 PM
OhByTheWay: if these kids DO get into it ... I may like to contract them ;)

Stephen Cherry
02-09-2012, 12:28 PM
why not buy a box of disposable dust masks and donate them to the school. This seems like a double opportunity- the kids can learn to sand a little, and they could learn that you are supposed to use a dust mask.

Jim German
02-09-2012, 2:18 PM
The amount of exposure a toddler is going to get from sanding something themselves is insignificant. They're probably going to be far more harmed by walking past someone smoking a cigarette then spending 5 minutes sanding.

Van Huskey
02-09-2012, 2:30 PM
I think the reality as others have mentioned is they will each make three swipes with the sand paper and be done. Whomever is teaching them will sand the item and prep it for paint. I assume they will be using child friendly finger paints and then clear coating it. You are not going to keep a dust mask on a toddler without super glue! This will be like all the projects I "built" with my dad when I was little, he built it I was somewhere in the general area. That said when it does get sanded the kids need not be right on top of the sanding, no need to expose them to real amounts of sanding dust, their systems don't handle stuff like that as well as adults.

Andrew Pitonyak
02-09-2012, 2:39 PM
Ask for clarification before you go over the top. I mean if your child helped me prune, I would not hand them a chain saw. Well, I might, but a responsible adult would not!

Van Huskey
02-09-2012, 2:55 PM
Ask for clarification before you go over the top. I mean if your child helped me prune, I would not hand them a chain saw. Well, I might, but a responsible adult would not!

Chaps, gloves and a face shield and they will be fine.... :D

Guy Belleman
02-09-2012, 3:36 PM
Yes, I think there is a lot of over-reacting to this issue. If concerned, then go to the school and talk to the project teacher. Three year-olds. I suspect that sanding for a couple of minutes and getting finger paint on a surface will be about the limit.

Brian Tymchak
02-09-2012, 5:34 PM
I agree that the 3 year-olds will lose interest in about 5 minutes. But there will be 1 or 2 that don't. Since the OP is indicating "refinish", my concern would be what the old finish is that is being sanded off. If it's paint, is it old paint, possibly lead-based paint?

Drew Sanderson
02-10-2012, 7:53 AM
Thanks for all the great perspectives, as far as duration of interest, or the teacher doing it for them... well that is part of what is different at a Montessori school. I too think contracting the children for my projects sounds like a great idea.;) I hate sanding! They of course have to paint it because you know they won't be going with the grain :) I think a dust mask would have limited impact since the seal would be so poor.

Phil Thien
02-10-2012, 10:32 AM
If it is bare wood, I wouldn't worry.

If it is old, and painted, I'd be getting on the phone pronto. There is no safe level of lead exposure. Three years old is too young to be sanding something which may contain lead, or to be around someone ELSE sanding something which may contain lead.


Don Jarvie
02-10-2012, 3:08 PM
You may want to find out what the kids will really be doing and go from there. It may be they all stand around with a 2x2 block of 120 grit for 5 minutes with the teacher finishing it later. Then all get their paint brushes and have at it. Also by asking what the project is about it maybe you could volunteer to help. A nice way to put your skills to use.

Knowing what we know as woodworkers we may be assuming way too much or way too little.