Ban Climbing Chalk

Its Harmful to both the Environment and Climber Health

Environmental Costs

Before even attempting to estimate the health costs of chalk-use it’s worth noting the other obvious downsides of the practice. First off, climbing chalk production requires huge and environmentally-costly mines in northeast China that causes massive air pollution as well as water contamination, “large-scale plant death, soil degradation, and reduced microbial activity.” In other words, conservation friendly climbers are directly adding to the massive environmental degradation of a foreign country. But that’s just the production side costs, the use of chalk in some our most beautiful crags across the country has massive impacts on the aesthetics of the rock.

The visible chalk lines at Red River Gorge

Health Costs

By itself, I think there is enough environmental reason to stop using chalk, but that’s before even considering the health costs that climbers incur when constantly inhaling chalk dust in the gym. Again, despite 9.84 million people climbing every year, there hasn’t been any direct research on the exact environmental and health costs of climbing chalk dust. So we are mostly left to estimate the cost based on related research. Thankfully, though, there is a growing literature on the importance of air quality and the health effects of air pollution.

Moving Forward

On an individual level I think that more of us should take the example of dirtbags like Yvon Chouinard in not using chalk. At the very least we should opt for liquid climbing chalk which will be less likely to impact air quality.