In Part 1, we discussed the composition of gymnastics chalk, which is actually quite harmless in itself. The potential danger lies in the fact that chalk dust can be inhaled, and harmful bacteria may be attached to the dust. When you inhale chalk dust, you also inhale the bacteria in the air. But don’t worry: there’s something you can do about it, without discontinuing gym activities or chalk use.
How Dust Mites Add to the Issue
In addition to the four types of bacteria discussed previously, tiny dust mites breed at alarming rates in gyms. Each person in the gym constantly sheds skin; this skin rafting occurs at a rate of 150,000 rafts each hour. The tiny dust mites that consume the rafts go to the dark corners of the gym, where, among other activities like laying eggs, they defecate; the resulting droppings cause many people to have allergic reactions.
With its combination of dust mite droppings and bacteria, gym air is really as disgusting as it often smells. Since the olfactory sensors are closely connected to the brain (something that helps explain why memories and emotional responses are so closely associated with various fragrances), the risks connected to inhaling toxins can be severe.
Why Air Fresheners Don’t Help
Air fresheners don’t actually help reduce risks; you’re still inhaling all the gross stuff; only now you’re also inhaling other chemicals, which simply serve to mask the odors of the bacteria by making your olfactory sense essentially comatose. The chemistry behind how and why they work is actually pretty interesting, but clearly air fresheners will not eliminate the problem.
Why Air Filters Aren’t the Answer
A step up from air fresheners, air filters don’t quite fix the issue, either. Filters simply catch particles — but only those particles that happen to make their way to the filter. Any biological particles growing in close proximity to the filters remain unaffected, along with any chemical gasses. Also referred to as air cleaners, air filters may be helpful for reducing the amount of allergens, such as dust mite droppings in the air; however, they are not sufficient for removing the bacteria found in gym air.
How Air Purifiers Can Help
Unlike air filters, true air purifiers actually sanitize the air by replacing the missing ions and ozone in the indoor air, allowing it to function like fresh outdoor air. Because air purifiers truly improve air quality, they can help ensure that your gym is a healthy environment for gymnasts. Be aware that sometimes air filtration systems can be referred to as “air purifiers,” so make sure you ask plenty of questions before having a system installed.
So while it isn’t actually the chalk dust that puts gymnasts at risk, but the bacteria that the dust carries through the air, you can reduce risk factors by installing an air purifier in your gym.