As soon as the weather warms up and the snow melts off the sidewalks, it’s time to bring out your colorful sidewalk chalk and make your concrete spring/summer appropriate. However, doing this fun activity with the kids begs the question: Is sidewalk chalk toxic?
The short answer is no. Sidewalk chalk is made within certain safety guidelines to be safe for pets and children to touch. Still, ingesting large amounts could lead to various problems.
As such, you’ll still need to supervise your children to prevent them from swallowing one of the sticks because that’s when it gets dangerous. Here is some general information about sidewalk chalk to help you make an educated decision on whether your child should play with chalk.
Sidewalk chalk is basically the bigger version of regular chalk. It’s famous among children during spring and summer to doodle and play hopscotch. But it’s not just for kids. People use sidewalk chalk to draw art pieces on their concrete sidewalks.
Some might even use it to relieve their anxiety, improve their sleep quality, and maintain their overall mental well-being. They do so by simply nurturing the creative side of their brain through coloring.
With minimal traffic on the concrete and cooperative weather conditions, your masterpiece could last on your sidewalk anywhere between 5 to 10 days. However, if the drawing gets wet, it’ll wash right off the concrete.
But how’s sidewalk chalk any different from regular chalk? Well, sidewalk chalk is made of different materials to increase its durability and give it a gritty texture for easier drawing. The texture helps the chalk stick rub against the harsh concrete without breaking.
Most sidewalk chalk is made from gypsum, which is calcium sulfate, or limestone, which is calcium carbonate. These two ingredients are the calcium salt that forms 97% of any chalk stick. The other 3% are minerals, such as silica, manganese, and phosphorus.
Then, to make sidewalk chalk rougher and more durable, manufacturers add plaster of Paris to the mix. This extra ingredient strengthens the chalk to withstand the rough surface of concrete, compared to a chalkboard. It also makes it more durable to last longer on the sidewalk.
Chalk is generally non-toxic and won’t hurt your children and pets. In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, otherwise known as CPSIA, set strict regulations for children’s products. These regulations included lowering the allowed amount of lead in chalk sticks.
So there’s no reason to worry about your children playing with chalk or your pet walking over colored concrete. The few particles which they may ingest or the residue that your pet may lick off their paws are harmless.
However, chalk sticks aren’t so friendly if they’re eaten or swallowed. Consuming large amounts of chalk can irritate the stomach, causing nausea and vomiting. Chalk sticks could also be a choking hazard, so your kids must play with chalk under an adult’s supervision.
As for pets, the same goes for ingesting a sizeable chunk of chalk. It could cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases, intestinal blockage. So it’s best to consult your vet as soon as possible if your pet ever swallows a big piece of chalk.
Some types of chalk sticks leave behind so much dust. Again, if it’s only a little dust from drawing with chalks every now and then, it won’t cause any harm. However, if your child inhales a large amount of dust, like chalk crushed into powder, it will cause some side effects.
These side effects could be as simple as coughing and sneezing, or they may lead to something more serious. Inhaled chalk dust could increase the symptoms of asthma or cause an allergic reaction to your child.
As for your pets, if a piece of chalk goes up their nose or down their air pipe, they wont be able to breathe properly. The minute you notice your pet having difficulty breathing or trying to cough something up, go to your vet immediately.
Some people are tempted to color their pet’s fur with chalk. In other cases, some dogs may roll around in chalk dust and cover their fur with it. In both cases, you need to wash the chalk dust off your pet’s fur right away.
Even if the chalk is labeled as safe for your pet’s hair and skin, there’s still a high chance that your pet would lick it off themselves and ingest all that chalk powder. If that happens, it may lead to any of the dangerous side effects mentioned above. So it’s better to avoid it altogether.
Playing with chalk on the sidewalk on a nice summer morning can be a fun bonding activity for you and your child. You could brighten your concrete with colorful drawings, draw a four-square court, play a game of hopscotch with the kids, or simply relieve your stress through coloring.
Just remember to keep a close eye on them while playing, and keep the chalk away from your pets. You wouldn’t want your kids or pets to try and find out what chalk tastes like and end up with stomach issues — or worse. Stay safe, and have fun coloring!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.