Study Indicates Chalk May Reduce Spread of COVID-19

Preliminary research at De Montfort University shows chalk may decrease viral transmission


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.”



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  • Show Comments

  • ray werner

    Thank you! The high school I currently work at has voted to have students and staff return partially in person this fall. Hearing that chalk may help decrease the spread of the virus on climbing holds brings hope that we can begin climbing with a little less risks than originally thought.

    I would love to read more about how gyms are navigating their re-opening. We have a 12 climb vertical wall and 40 ft wide traverse/bouldering wall. It would be great to have a plan on how to get kids moving on these items.

    Thank you

  • WoodchuckATC

    It’s the airborne chalk that was an issue I thought. Particles , dust , that can capture and hold the coughs, wet molecules with virus on board circulating in the gym air which was the main chalk issue. Chalk on holds is worn in. Use of a wet sanitizer before climb, or use of alcohol based liquid chalks were presumed to also be a plus. But the airborne chalk dust that could capture wet molecules with virus was the issue of concern for climbers to breath in.

  • Michael Browder

    I guess we will have to see the full results. I don’t really understand here. Sure, there is less virus on the hold, but what if it is transferred onto a hand and then face immediately afterwards (such as a climber immediately following another one who was ill)? The article seems to be saying that the virus is deactivated (and not just covered up by the chalk) , but transference is also, an issue, not just whether the virus sits there on the hold or not. Is the chalk really deactivating the virus? That should be relatively simple to determine.

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