On Colored-Powder Runs

largestThere is a ColorRunTM scheduled for Kona, Hawaii in Sept 2014. (and Ft Lauderdale, FL in May and Gainesville, FL in Sept). This event just doesn’t sit right with me, here’s my thoughts:
DO NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS, PLEASE. The packaging of the color powder produces a lot of plastic waste, the powder isn’t good to inhale, it takes a lot of water to clean up afterwards, ColorRun is a for-profit company (in Maui ~$8k of a $250k+ take went to charity), and who knows how that much cornstarch and dye impacts our environment and ocean? Our island is colorful enough as it is. It’s great that this concept gets people excited about running/fitness, but please choose to support other 5k events. Mahalo for your kokua.

As requested, here’s some additional links to more information on these runs.

On Health:

ColorRunTM describes the colored powder as colored cornstarch. Good thing it’s not talcum powder, because silicosis is bad news.

From the Canadian OSHA: here, actually describes health concerns with various dusts.

From US OSHA: here. I have no idea how to determine what 15mg/m is.

From Consumer Traveler:

I decided to check the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) of these chemicals concerning their skin and inhalation safety. While they’re certified under the FD&C, that’s more for ingestion than other contact. In the Color Run, the chemicals are airborne, and will contact the skin, eyes, ears, nasal passages, and are inhaled into the lungs. I’m aware that many think companies overstate the health and safety information on these MSDS sheets. Personally, as a graduate chemical engineer who worked in the chemical industry for 20-plus years, I don’t.

For corn starch powder, the MSDS says, “If inhaled, remove to fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give oxygen. Get medical attention.”

It also says for eyes, “Check for and remove any contact lenses. In case of contact, immediately flush eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Get medical attention if irritation occurs,” as well as for skin contact, “Wash with soap and water. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. Get medical attention if irritation develops.”

So what does that mean?

As UMass Lowell puts it, “Do not get cornstarch dust in your eyes. Avoid inhaling cornstarch dust when using. If one of these exposures happens, provide treatment as indicated. If irritation continues, contact your physician.”

The MSDS’ of the dyes says much the same thing. Examples would be for the Blue and Yellow.

Here’s an article on the colored powder making it into weather-sealed professional-quality camera lenses. Where else is that powder getting that it shouldn’t be?

Bottom Line: Not having dust in your lungs is better for you than having dust in your lungs. Pele gives us enough strange stuff to breathe in as it is, no need more.

On Clean-Up:

Even the powder manufacturer states the power stains if it gets wet see first FAQ question here.

Link to article on clean-up challenges: here. Includes many pictures on previous events in US and abroad.

Or this article on issues in Raleigh, NC.

On Packaging Impact:

With Hawaii County’s ban on plastic bags in the retail environment, we take plastic waste seriously. Each participant gets a small plastic bag of colored powder, they sell additional small bags, and each 1km and the finish has some type of bulk powder. Is there a plan on how to collect and recycle this plastic waste?

On Charity Contributions:

ColorRunTM’s own website here: Read it carefully, no portion of proceeds donated. They raise AWARENESS of local charities and donate funds based on number of volunteers provided by the charity to work the event.

Maui 3/30/14 event numbers: $8,000 Maui United Way, based on a donation of $40 per each of 200 volunteers provided. 5,700 runners, paying $45-50 each, so $256,000+ gross. Source: here.

For the Maui event, there were 5 volunteer shifts over 3 days varying from 4.5 to 6 hours long. Assuming each volunteer worked 5 hours, ColorRunTM would have had to pay $42+ in wages and taxes (before benefits) had the runs been staffed with regular employees instead. Therefore this $40 donation per volunteer is zero skin off ColorRunTM’s back.

Alaska Dispatch published an editorial on a ColorRunTM there. High points: $350,000+ PROFIT, $10,000 in charitable contributions.

General consensus, TheColorRunTM doesn’t publish how much it gives to charities. Case in point: here regarding the Maui event. If they give a considerable amount, you’d think they’d be screaming it from the rooftop. Personally, I demand a bit more transparency when I donate to charities.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with profit and I’m sure these charities appreciate ANY additional donations; but, let’s call a spade a spade.

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