Reducing Dust Exposure in Indoor Climbing Gyms

Chalk dust cloud in climbing gym

2012 research on the prevalence of magnesium chalk dust in climbing gyms points to liquid chalk being a viable alternative to chalk bans in gyms to reduce the impact of chalk. Surprisingly the research found that chalk balls have a negligible effect on dust in climbing halls. The research on this topic is still ongoing & we plan to follow up on it in this series of science blog posts

Full Abstract, emphasis ours: As users of indoor climbing gyms are exposed to high concentrations (PM(10) up to 4000 μg m(-3); PM(2.5) up to 500 μg m(-3)) of hydrated magnesium carbonate hydroxide (magnesia alba), reduction strategies have to be developed. In the present paper, the influence of the use of different kinds of magnesia alba on dust concentrations is investigated. Mass concentrations, number concentrations and size distributions of particles in indoor climbing gyms were determined with an optical particle counter, a synchronized, hybrid ambient real-time particulate monitor and an electrical aerosol spectrometer. PM(10) obtained with these three different techniques generally agreed within 25%. Seven different situations of magnesia alba usage were studied under controlled climbing activities. The use of a suspension of magnesia alba in ethanol (liquid chalk) leads to similar low mass concentrations as the prohibition of magnesia alba. Thus, liquid chalk appears to be a low-budget option to reduce dust concentrations. Magnesia alba pressed into blocks, used as powder or sieved to 2-4 mm diameter, does not lead to a significant reduction of the dust concentrations. The same is true for chalk balls (powder enclosed in a sack of porous mesh material). The promotion of this kind of magnesia alba as a means of exposure reduction (as seen in many climbing gyms) is not supported by our results. Particle number concentrations are not influenced by the different kinds of magnesia alba used. The particle size distributions show that the use of magnesia alba predominantly leads to emission of particles with diameters above 1 μm.

PubMed Link