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Chalk Dust - Long Term Health Impact (Read 9164 times)

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Chalk Dust - Long Term Health Impact
March 18, 2024, 09:01:13 am
Whilst looking into buying a table saw and learning just how expensive effective dust extraction is, I ended up down the rabbit hole of dusts impact on health. Whilst many forms of dust such as silica and wood dust are well understood (very hazardous), not all dust has been studied: I don't think there is any research on the long term health impact of exposure to chalk dust specifically. What does seem fairly clear from my reading is that any dust in the sub 5 micron range can be inhaled deeply into the lungs and has the potential to impact health. It seems that most fine dust that has been studied appropriately is shown to cause negative health effects. Chalk produces dust in the sub 5 micron range and this invisible dust can remain suspended in the air for hours, days or indefinitely depending just how small the particles are (there will be a mix). It is likely that even if the air in your climbing space appears clear you are breathing in lots of dust suspended in the air. I don't want to be alarmist, but it's worthy of consideration.

I'm not an expert. I'll be pleased for someone to convince me that I'm wrong.

For anyone who wants to try extracting fine dust, this is an incredible informative video of how to get better results than commercial units for a fraction of the cost. I'm probably going to build one for any drilling and sawing that goes on in my garage, and I can let it run for 10 minutes at the end of each climbing session. I may even try switching to hideous liquid chalk at home.


sirlockoff

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POF on home boards?

Dac

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I wouldn’t be too concerned about any health risks related to inhalation of climbing chalk, it’s fairly benign, non-toxic, inert stuff.
But most significantly, as far as any concerns relating to the dust being of a sufficiently small particle size to make it into the alveoli of the lungs, magnesium carbonate is soluble in water.

The main issue with dust containing silicates, wood and the like is that if it finds its way into the alveoli the body doesn’t really have a good mechanism to remove it. This leads to inflammation, fibrosis and the like. However, as climbing chalk is reasonably soluble the body is capable of removing it, so it doesn’t build up, and you don’t end up with coal miners lung.

So while you shouldn’t go snorting the stuff, and should probably avoid unnecessary inhalation, it is unlikely to result in you being (to use the medical terminology) deader than fried chicken.

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I wouldn’t be too concerned about any health risks related to inhalation of climbing chalk, it’s fairly benign, non-toxic, inert stuff.
But most significantly, as far as any concerns relating to the dust being of a sufficiently small particle size to make it into the alveoli of the lungs, magnesium carbonate is soluble in water.

The main issue with dust containing silicates, wood and the like is that if it finds its way into the alveoli the body doesn’t really have a good mechanism to remove it. This leads to inflammation, fibrosis and the like. However, as climbing chalk is reasonably soluble the body is capable of removing it, so it doesn’t build up, and you don’t end up with coal miners lung.

So while you shouldn’t go snorting the stuff, and should probably avoid unnecessary inhalation, it is unlikely to result in you being (to use the medical terminology) deader than fried chicken.

Thanks for the info, do you have a source to back this up? I have not been able to find anything that suggests inhaling chalk dust is ok, only things that point to the opposite (HSE set workplace exposure limits, for example). I hope what you say is correct!

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But most significantly, as far as any concerns relating to the dust being of a sufficiently small particle size to make it into the alveoli of the lungs, magnesium carbonate is soluble in water.

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnesium_carbonate says "The anhydrous salt is practically insoluble in water, acetone, and ammonia." Is this a different form ?

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Having Asthma i looked at this a while ago and concluded it wasn't worth overly worrying about.

Think the best academic paper that i found was this one that looked at gymnastics faclities and chalk: https://minds.wisconsin.edu/bitstream/handle/1793/83624/2017reamerj.pdf?sequence=1

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Having Asthma i looked at this a while ago and concluded it wasn't worth overly worrying about.

Think the best academic paper that i found was this one that looked at gymnastics faclities and chalk: https://minds.wisconsin.edu/bitstream/handle/1793/83624/2017reamerj.pdf?sequence=1

Thanks. That's the most relevant data I've seen on it. The air quality within the tested gymnastics gym was well within  occupational health limits and I suspect a climbing gym would be similar. It's worth noting that the tested gym did have a ventilation system and they still recommended better housekeeping, maximally ventilating the space and using liquid chalk, so I imagine that chalk dust can be harmful, but as you say, probably not a major concern at an average wall. 

Dac

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“do you have a source to back this up?”

It doesn’t do much for the validity of my point, but no.

My post was basically just written based off half remembered bits of knowledge (biochemistry degree, 25 years of lab work in the pharmaceutical industry, 10 of them at a site specialising in inhalational products). Hopefully someone will reply with some better and more specific knowledge.

I suspect you may struggle to find much in the way of studies and data specific to chalk dust. (The paper relating to gymnastics facilities is better than anything I could find).

As far as solubility is concerned, it is soluble to an extent of about 0.015g per 100g of water. Which I have to admit is a lot lower than I was expecting. However if lodged in the depths of your lungs your body would still be able to shift it.






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There was a group of students running an air quality test in Tübingen a few years back. They concluded that particle size wasn’t dangerous (IIRC) but that the gym could do something to improve air quality regardless. The gym then installed these hanging static filter things which made a big improvement on fine particulate in the air. I don’t have a link unfortunately.

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I have a PM meter - and in my cellar it usually sits at 2-4 (very low). When I climb on my board it rapidly rises to 30-60 even if I am very sparing with chalk. This is starting to get to levels which are not considered good for outside air quality. I've not yet ventured to the depot on a tuesday evening (when its rammed) and measured yet... Ventilation is of course important (next to zero in my cellar) which may not be a problem in summer when wall doors/windows are open but might be in the winter.

Secondly - I would be more concerned about the drying agents found in some chalk brands - which I believe are carcinogenic.

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Oh - btw it should be possible to reverse calculate long term particulate concentrations by measuring the depth / volume (per area) of chalk accumulation  (we've all put our hand in a cm or so of chalk dust on top of the wall) and considering the settling velocity of the particulates.

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Thanks Tomtom. What do those numbers mean on your PM (particulate matter?) meter? Is it measuring dust in the <1 to 5 micron range (the stuff that's likely to be hazardous)?

Based on your comment that 30-60 is not considered good for outside air quality, I assume this would mean it exceeds occupational health levels (especially indoors)? If so, that is interesting because it conflicts with the results obtained in the thesis that sxrxg posted. The gymastics gym in that study had a ventilation system and was much larger than an average home wall, so perhaps this is not surprising.

So far I am of the view that fine chalk dust probably is dangerous, but it is dependent on exposure. I am not sure if our exposure is potentially too high as home wall owners.

Maybe I should borrow a particulate matter meter from amazon to test my own space...
« Last Edit: March 19, 2024, 10:54:39 am by Liamhutch89 »

Tony

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So far I am of the view that fine chalk dust probably is dangerous…

Define dangerous.
Life is dangerous.
Drinking alcohol is dangerous.

One suspects the reduction in quality of life due to morbidity arising from acute climbing accidents may be greater than that from occasional (unless you work in a climbing wall all your life) exposure to chalk dust over a life course.

One may be wrong; but I bet a lifetime of climbing that I’m not.

Paul B

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Didn't the original BUK have some kind of hashed together system of bathroom fans in a ceiling conduit? I'd planned on doing something similar at my board but realised it doesn't actually get that dusty if you don't use it  :tumble:

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So far I am of the view that fine chalk dust probably is dangerous…

Define dangerous.
Life is dangerous.
Drinking alcohol is dangerous.

One suspects the reduction in quality of life due to morbidity arising from acute climbing accidents may be greater than that from occasional (unless you work in a climbing wall all your life) exposure to chalk dust over a life course.

One may be wrong; but I bet a lifetime of climbing that I’m not.

In this context, I'd define dangerous as: 'exposure to chalk dust probably affects respiratory health'. Of course, the dose makes the poison, and that's what we're trying to establish. Tomtom's measurements suggest it may be cause for concern in his home wall.

Alcohol is dangerous, that's why I don't drink it (I have a specific health issue)
Climbing can be dangerous that's why I take crash pads to mitigate the consequence of a fall.
Dust is dangerous, that's why it might be worth mitigating exposure to it (e.g. ventilation, liquid chalk in non-ventilated spaces). I spend 5-10 hours every week in my garage.   

Didn't the original BUK have some kind of hashed together system of bathroom fans in a ceiling conduit? I'd planned on doing something similar at my board but realised it doesn't actually get that dusty if you don't use it  :tumble:

If you take a look at the video in my original post it looks like a great option for home use if you actually intend to do something. It seems a lot of woodwork enthusiasts go this route. 

Tony

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In this context, I'd define dangerous as: 'exposure to chalk dust probably affects respiratory health'.

Breathing (in any atmosphere) [or indeed not breathing] will affect respiratory health. This is not a quantification of risk or danger that you might consider negligible or having no “clinically meaningful difference”.

…measurements suggest it may be cause for concern in his home wall.
Define “cause for concern”.

…that's why I take crash pads to mitigate the consequence of a fall.
Yet, clearly, they do not reduce the potential risk to a level which is either negligible, nor below a clinically meaningful difference. But, you accept this risk.

Dust is dangerous, that's why it might be worth mitigating exposure to it
This is not a fact; it is entirely conceivable that occasional exposure to dust at levels discussed will have no clinically meaningful difference on an individuals health.


I spend 5-10 hours every week in my garage.
   
Occy health is usually concerned about 35-40hrs a week, almost every week for a working life. It is also usually more concerned about effects at an aggregate level (many people). At the individual level a dust extractor is unlikely to have any impact on your personal health; it might at a large population level (of those regularly exposed, etc.).


Ultimately, your worrying about your health is probably worse for your health than chalk dust.

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All those words and not a single shred of evidence. Arguing for the sake of arguing. You have contributed nothing :slap:

Tony

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All those words and not a single shred of evidence. Arguing for the sake of arguing. You have contributed nothing :slap:

Ah! Your famed rigour.
Here you go: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/health-anxiety/

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All those words and not a single shred of evidence. Arguing for the sake of arguing. You have contributed nothing :slap:

Ah! Your famed rigour.
Here you go: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/health-anxiety/

What a cunt  :)

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Great thread  :lol:

Ref dust. Of course in theory it presents a risk to health. But you’d need to understand your exposure. The only way to know your exposure would be a PM2.5 monitor in your boardroom.

Like TomTom, I purchased an air quality monitor. In my case I was curious what level of pm2.5 my woodburner was emitting indoors, because a doctor informed my mum who died of lung cancer that there may be a genetic susceptibility to lung cancer in my family (she didn’t ever smoke, got it via passive fumes from working in office during the 70s).

Turns out the answer for the woodburner is: virtually none, no change in levels when it’s running.

However the levels of pm2.5 emitted during me making a stir-fry were extremely high, and same when using the grill. Pm2.5 levels over 100 every time using the grill or frying anything.
On further reading it appears this is  very common. Cause for concern for full-time chefs in poorly ventilated kitchens. I recommend anyone interested (Liam) has a quick read about cooking and the associated risk of elevated pm2.5, you’ll likely end up more concerned about this than chalk dust in your boardroom.

I wondered about the chalk dust thing years ago and how walls may be exposed to litigation years down the line from workers who spend 40hrs per week in them. I think there’s a possibility there might be a risk to health for workers in indoor walls but you’d need to understand what their exposure level is.
I don’t know if it’s common for walls to actively monitor dust levels, but they should be doing. It’s an obvious occupational hazard for that industry. When you observe the levels of dust build-up on surfaces at walls it’s obvious.
If it was an industrial site then control measures for dust would undoubtedly be required under H&S law.

Monitors are cheap - my mid level one cost £65 and measure pm10, pm2.5, formaldehyde and co2. I was only really interested in the pm2.5.

Anyway that’s my contribution - get a pm2.5 monitor for cheap and understand your exposure. If it turns out your pm2.5 exposure is over mid-20s micrograms/m3 each time you boulder, and you spend many hours in that environment, then you can tell Tony he’s talking bollocks. But if it isn’t, then he’s correct.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2024, 01:30:16 pm by petejh »

ferret

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You can find the information you need in the msds.
Magnesium Carbonate
- OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL):
15 mg/m3 total dust, 5 mg/m3 respirable fraction for nuisance dusts.

PEL is based on an 8 hour time weighted average so you would have to account for that in any monitoring.

tomtom

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Mine was from IKEA - about £30 or so. Gives the reading and has a green/amber/yellow rating as well. Like Pete its interesting how high it gets if you burn something frying.

I was going to type what Pete has said - that if you visit a wall once or twice a week on average its not likely to be an issue. But if you work in a wall I would be more concerned. I notice some walls box off the desk/shop area (glass walls) probably to keep their stock dust free - but some might have half an eye on their staffs long term wellbeing.

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Thanks Pete and Ferret. Very useful.

At fear of being labeled as having health anxiety, that's potentially another rabbit hole to go down (regarding the cooking exposure).

I will do some testing. 

Dingdong

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If you really want to get the health anxiety fired up I’d look into micro and milliplastics they keep finding in human bodies  :popcorn:

JamieG

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I'm just going to throw this cat among the pigeons. Shoe rubber exposure!!!  :worms:  ;D

https://chemrxiv.org/engage/chemrxiv/article-details/650306c2b338ec988a77c900


 

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