Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the dangers of climbing gyms and possible rate of viral transmission has been unknown. A recent study, however, by De Montfort University, suggests that chalk-laden holds may not be as dangerous as once thought. In fact, chalk may help reduce the presence and spread of coronavirus.
The study was commissioned by the Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC) at the suggestion from The Warehouse Climbing Centre. The ABC and De Montfort University cautioned that although these results are exciting, the research is not yet complete. The full report will be published next week, in early August.
“We needed to understand the potential impact of chalk on the virus as there were some concerns within the climbing community around how chalk on holds may act as a reservoir of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19,” wrote the ABC in a press release.
Dr. Katie Laird, head of the infectious disease research group, Dr. Maitreyi Shivkumar, virologist, and Dr. Lucy Owen, postdoctoral researcher, led the study. According to the press release, it was “novel research and it took some time to set up the test method protocols.”
Plastic surfaces were coated with the virus and monitored for one hour. Immediately after the addition of chalk, the results showed, the amount of the virus decreased by around 99%. During the same time period the control group—plastic surfaces untouched by chalk—indicated only a small decline in virus counts.
“These results look fantastic and show chalk could once again be the climbers best friend,” stated Rich Emerson, Chair of the ABC, in the press release. “We hope that it will provide comfort to our customers as they return to climbing at indoor walls. We will not lessen all our other COVID-safe measures such as regular hand sanitization and social distancing, but this extra factor should temper fears that chalky handholds could be vectors of the disease. We await the formal scientific report with anticipation.”