Health & Fitness

Is the Chalk Dust in the Gym Harmful?

The experts say “yes” and “no.”

Well – what is that supposed to mean?

We will try to give you a concise and simple explanation…

So chalk isn’t really harmful if it is inhaled in small to moderate amounts.  In fact, you could eat a piece of chalk and it wouldn’t hurt you at all. But inhaling chalk dust and what accompanies it over a period of time is harmful.

Take a close look at chalk and you will see something interesting and disturbing.

The disturbing part isn’t the chalk but what is ON it.

Several years ago, air samples from gyms were examined and bacteria was found in the samples. It was just a little bacteria. The amount was shocking. Researchers expected everything from chalk resin to mat fibers but they never expected to find Salmonella (Salmonella cholereasuis), Staph (Staphylococcus aureus), E-Coli (Escherichia coli) and Candida (Candida albicans).  The dirty sock odor (as it is often described) that is noticed in gyms is made up of Salmonella, Staph, E-Coli and Candida.

That being said, also realize that germs don’t have wings so they can fly through the air. Dust actually helps retain the odors and bacteria that everyone breathes while in the gym.

The sense of smell is the only one of our five senses that goes directly to the brain. So whatever is inhaled – included that bacteria in the gym – goes directly to your brain. We use air-fresheners which actually just deaden our olfactory sense and make it comatose. The scent in air freshener masks the odor of the bacteria – even though we still inhale it along with the new chemicals that the air fresheners contribute to the blend.

At the same time, everyone who is in the gym is shedding their skin – called skin rafting – at a rate of about 150,000 rafts per hour.  Tiny dust mites (from the arachnid family) consume this exfoliation and then go to the dark corners of the room and hatch, grow, eat, defecate, mate and lay eggs. The waste is what humans react to – some developing severe allergies to the droppings.

Combine these factors and you have the lovely blend “living” in the gym air. It is become more of challenge to keep gyms as healthy spaces that host healthy activities.

Can something be done to improve this situation?

While a filter simply catches particles, a true air purifier doesn’t depend on a man-made filter to clean the air but replaces missing ions and ozone in the indoor air so that is it purified and acts again like fresh outdoor air.

Air filters only work well on particles that actually make it to the filter. They don’t remove the biological particles that may be growing in close proximity or eliminate or even dilute the chemical gases that are created by paints, carpets, vinyl etc., in the building. It is the air purifiers that actually have an impact on these things and can do a lot to improve indoor air quality.

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Photo Credit: © All rights reserved by Rebecca Stone

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