Long term health effects of inhaling powders from 'color runs' u - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Long term health effects of inhaling powders from 'color runs' unknown

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The Color Me Rad 5k in East Hartford. (WFSB photo) The Color Me Rad 5k in East Hartford. (WFSB photo)
EAST HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Races like the "Color Me Rad" 5K have grown in popularity in recent years.

They're the runs that pummel people with colorful powders and slimes.

Eyewitness News set out to see if those chemicals are safe to inhale.

Under clouds of green, purple and orange, the Color Me Rad 5K in East Hartford was off and running a few weeks ago.

Even before the gun went off, the powders were flying.

Runners told Eyewitness News that's exactly why they came to the race.

Other races like The Color Run, Color Vibe and Color in Motion feature similar experiences.

Some runners want to know exactly what is in those powders.

According to the Color Me Rad website, they're cornstarch-based with food-grade dyes.

To be sure, an Eyewitness News reporter ran the race herself.

She was covered from head-to-toe and proceeded to swab each colorful spot.

The samples were sent to Baron Consulting in Milford.

It said it was able to break down the chemical compound of a material.

According to its results, the powders were indeed corn starch with some weak bands of food dyes.

A lab technician said it was all non-toxic.

While the powders and dyes may be considered non-toxic, some doctors said they could still cause problems for some runners.

"It's certainly a possibility that you could have an autoimmune or inflammatory response to one of these things," said Dr. Edward Salerno, a lung doctor at Hartford Hospital. "And it's never known until you're actually exposed to it."

Salerno said a runner's safety really depends on if they have an underlying medical condition.

"If they have some chronic lung disease or some history of asthma, any dust exposure could certainly trigger an asthma exacerbation or an asthma attack," he said.

In some cases, Salerno said people may not even know they have an underlying condition until it hits in a new environment.

"You may notice breathlessness where you never noticed it before at that stage of running," he said. "You may notice wheezing [or] heaviness in your chest."

Color Me Rad runners must sign a lengthy waiver in order to run the race. Its website also stated that if someone is allergic to corn or food dye, they can't run.

It also said the people throwing all that color are instructed to aim below the head. However, that doesn't always happen.

Runners can wear sunglasses, goggles or a bandana over their face. Salerno said that's a good idea.

"I would definitely think about running with a mask if you know you're going to be going through a plume of dust or cornstarch or food coloring," he said.

Salerno said what researchers don't know is if there are any long-term effects from inhaling the powders and dyes. He said that's something they won't know for another 10 to 15 years down the road.

In the meantime, he recommended contacted a doctor immediately if runners experience any symptoms.

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