Indoor rock climbing is an excellent way to build strength, develop your balance and work on your endurance – an exciting sport that involves a combination of concentration and physical exercise that can be enjoyed by almost anyone.
However, it’s of utmost importance that climbers stay safe by maintaining something you might not typically expect – excellent standards of air quality.
If you own a climbing centre, then you’re definitely no stranger to dealing with chalk dust.
Chalk is used in climbing centres to dry hands and keep them free of moisture for added grip and improved friction, but it can have hugely harmful effects, especially longer-term, if not removed from the air supply.
What is in Chalk Dust?
Chalk that’s used for climbing is usually made up of magnesium carbonate, which is a type of magnesium salt. However, depending on the brand of chalk dust, different ingredients may be added to help keep hands dry for longer or make the dust smell nicer, such as drying agents, limestone or essential oils.
Inhaling drying agents can cause dehydration and irritation in the lungs, especially for those with conditions such as asthma, and lead to immediate shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing – not ideal for climbers trying to focus. It can also cause skin to dry out and crack – another unpleasant side effect for those attending your centre.
Limestone contains silica, a natural material found in rocks, clay and sand. Silica dust is extremely fine and is difficult to be seen by the human eye, so it often goes unnoticed, but not without hugely harmful effects. For this reason, silica has a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL), but should be reduced as much as possible because of the amount of damage it can cause to the respiratory system.
How Chalk Dust Damages Health
Chalk dust particles are very fine and inhaling this dust can be extremely harmful, especially for people with pre-existing lung conditions.
Initial exposure to respirable dust, such as chalk dust, can be unpleasant with immediate effects such as headaches, congestion, sore throat and feeling lethargic. The more serious side effects of dust are more likely to appear after long-term exposure, and these can be deadly.
One such disease is silicosis; over time, silica dust particles can become trapped in the lungs, causing inflammation and scarring and reducing the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen. Silicosis is a progressive and potentially fatal disease.
Frequent exposure to respirable silica dust can also cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), resulting in severe breathlessness and continuous coughing, and again is progressive and fatal.
Why is Clean Air So Important?
Ensuring high quality, clean air in your climbing or bouldering centre can help to ensure both the short- and long-term health of your staff and customers, the longevity of your business, as well as reducing fire risk, increasing employee morale and business reputation, and minimising any financial risks on your business.
Additionally, breathing rates increase when exercising, meaning more chalk dust particles will be inhaled, and in enclosed spaces such as climbing centres, there is no natural ventilation for chalk dust to escape the area.
During busier times, more chalk dust is likely to enter the air with additional people chalking their hands in preparation for rock climbing, so it’s important to invest in technology to keep your climbing centre’s air supply clean.
Utilising dust management systems that clean the air of both visible and invisible airborne dust particles, as well as using vacuum cleaners with HEPA filtration systems to remove any dust that has settled onto surfaces can help you achieve clean air that both meets and exceeds any health and safety regulations.
How Can Dust Arrest Help Climbing Centres?
We at Dust Arrest have a variety of products available to support climbing centres to eradicate chalk dust from their air supply and get rid of dust that has landed on ledges, climbing wall grips or floors.
Airborne Chalk Dust
For removing airborne chalk dust and improving air quality in your bouldering centre, we have a few solutions on offer – the first of which are our range of Dustblockers. These incredible machines, when placed correctly, can achieve up to 95% dust reduction – up to 50% in their first 30 minutes of use!
All our Dustblockers are fitted with either Hepa 13 or Hepa 14 filters, so you can be certain that the filtration is of the highest standard to protect both your staff and your clients. They’re also super quiet to run, ensuring no disturbance to the concentration of any of your climbers, so they can stay ‘in the zone’.
Next up, we have Air Movement Fans. Also known as portable ventilation fans, these are able to draw in fresh air to increase ventilation in enclosed spaces, removing any air contaminated with chalk dust (or other fine particles) from the building.
Settled Chalk Dust
Any dust that hasn’t been caught by your air movement fan or Dustblocker will eventually settle on the ground or on other surfaces. At this point, it’s vital to remove this dust as soon as possible; if it’s disturbed, it may become airborne (and breathable) again.
To remove settled dust, certified H or M-class vacuum cleaners such as the Starmix SafePlus iPulse are the perfect tool for the job, as they can easily tackle both fine and slightly sticky dust. With an intensive filtering system that is automatically cleaned using high performance electromagnets, it also ensures that the vacuum won’t lose any suction power regardless of the quantity of chalk dust being removed.
For added reach, the brand new MAXVAC EasyReach Cleaning Kit (releasing soon - keep your eyes peeled!) is a fantastic way to clean dusty jugs, incuts, edges, crimps, pinches, slopers or pockets – every type of climbing hold. Not only providing you with a safe and straightforward way to clean areas up to 8m high from the safety of the ground, but this kit also has a full range of unique heads that can interconnect to create custom configurations to remove chalk dust from even the most difficult to access places.
Get in Touch
We hope you’ve found this blog helpful. If you have any questions about anything we’ve mentioned - or you own a climbing centre and would like advice on any of our products - please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team either by either giving us a call on 0800 980 0105, dropping us an email on email@example.com or via our contact form here.