Sandbox sand enriched with natural materials strengthens the microbiota and immune regulation of children’s bodies

Kindergarten children’s immune system regulation can be improved in just two weeks by playing in a sandbox, to which natural materials proven to be safe, i.e. microbiological diversity, have been added.

According to recent research by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), the Universities of Tampere, Helsinki and Eastern Finland, sandbox sand enriched in microbiota can prevent an imbalance in immune defense. Daily contact with nature can therefore reduce the risk of immune system disorders such as allergies, asthma, atopy and type 1 diabetes.

The research led by Luke is the world’s first placebo-controlled, double-blind study, in which the invisible natural diversity, i.e. microbiological diversity, was shown to affect the immune defense of kindergarten-aged children.

 “The results suggest that with such relatively easy nature-based solutions, we can prevent the imbalance of children’s immune defenses,” says Luke’s Senior Scientist Aki Sinkkonen.

The research is part of the Biodiversity interventions for well-being (BIWE) project funded by the Strategic Research Council and the ImmunoGarden project funded by Business Finland. The research group includes virology professor Heikki Hyƶty and docent Olli Laitinen from the University of Tampere, the Nature-based solutions research group led by Aki Sinkkonen, and Tuure Kinnunen, professor of clinical microbiology and immunology from the University of Eastern Finland.

Photo: Aki Sinkkonen

Read more in the journal Ecotoxicology & environmental safety