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Chemicals used in color runs draw concern

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By WFTV.com

ORLANDO, Fla. — Every race season, a rainbow of runners storm through clouds of colored powder.

“It was awesome,” said runner Mimi Wilk.

The pigments make for perfect pictures.

“It’s just a fun run, so we had a great time,” said runner Phil Fretwell.

But the experience comes with some risks, according to WFTV.

Earlier this year, WFTV investigated what can happen when certain brands of colored powder come in contact with fire, whether it’s from birthday candles, sparks from a machine or when someone lights a cigarette. The colored powder can become extremely flammable.

 

After that test, WFTV collected more colored powder samples from The Color Run and Color Vibe races. Because running these kinds of races typically means inhaling some of the powder, WFTV wanted to know if it is safe.

WFTV asked an assistant professor, a researcher and their students from the University of Central Florida to break down the powders and provide a list of all the chemicals found inside.

Many runners believe the powder is nothing more than cornstarch, but our inspection revealed more. Here’s a list of chemicals found in the five brands we tested.

Drolia

Sodium ferrocyanide
Sodium chloride
Calcium silicate
Tricalcium phosphate
Zinc pigment
Michler’s keytone – carcinogen
Auramine – carcinogen
Coumarin
Methyl violet

Chameleon Colors
Sodium chloride
Tricalcium phosphate
Bromine

HoliRangoli
Sodium ferrocyanide
Sodium chloride
Calcium silicate
Tricalcium phosphate
Calcium sulfate
Titanium dioxide
Manganese pigment
Zinc pigment
Coumarin – carcinogen
Auramine – carcinogen
Rhodamine

Color Run
Sodium chloride
Tricalcium phosphate
Calcium sulfate

Color Vibe
Sodium chloride
Tricalcium phosphate

Some Drolia powders contain carcinogens, including auramine, which can cause liver damage at a certain amount.

Some Chameleon Colors powders showed an abnormally high amount of bromine, which can cause breathing issues in large amounts and gastrointestinal problems if swallowed.

Some HoliRangoli powders contained carcinogens, such as coumarin. The Color Run samples contained calcium sulfate, which is used in drywall and won’t dissolve in your lungs. The Color Vibe powder is not much more than salt.

“I really wasn’t thinking about what I was breathing in,” said Dr. Todd Sontag, with Orlando Health Physician Associates.

The findings were taken to Sontag, a general practitioner who ran in a color race a few years ago.

“Inhaling any powder, whatever it is, is not going to be great for your lungs,” he said.

Sontag said that’s the main concern, but that he doesn’t think the chemicals are at a high enough concentration to cause medical problems for runners. He suggested running with a bandana or mask over your nose and mouth, however.

“Nothing’s going to prevent 100 percent,” he said. “But everything you can prevent is to your advantage.”

WFTV reached out to each brand to explain our findings. Only The Color Run responded, saying:

“Based on the toxicological profiles of the ingredients used, their concentrations in the formulation and mode of use of the product, it has been concluded that this product poses a low level of toxicological risk and is considered safe for use. The Color Run has invested a lot to insure their color powder is safe for its participants and it’s one of The Color Run’s core values to conduct safe and secure events.”

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