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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Color Running into Respiratory Problems?

Published May 19, 2016 12:20 PM by ADVANCE for Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine

By Tamer Abouras


With spring here and summer just around the corner, opportunities to have fun outdoor exercise are aplenty. And for those looking to shed a few pounds or just improve their general health, events that make exercise more social and group-oriented are also available in spades. One of the most popular of these is the near-ubiquitous Color Run.


You probably have seen pictures on your social media feed of a friend who’s participated in one, but per The Color Run’s own official site, “The Color Run, the world’s first COLOR 5k™ event, was founded in March 2011 as an event to promote healthiness and happiness by bringing the community together to participate in the ‘Happiest 5k on the Planet.’” And in case you were not aware, the “color” involved is the powder-based paint that all participants in any of the run’s numerous worldwide iterations are doused with.


But that powdery paint, made from a combination of cornstarch, baking soda, and FD&C dyes, has been reportedly linked to some respiratory issues as recently as this week, when a California school canceled its Color Run event over health concerns.


According to Sacramento’s local ABC10 affiliate, the school — Cowan Fundamental Elementary School of San Juan Unified School District — put out a statement informing parents and children that the run would be canceled. “On Tuesday, a small number of parents came forward to express their concerns about safety risks associated with a ‘color run’ planned for Friday afternoon at Cowan Fundamental Elementary School. We always seek to be responsive to parent concerns, and district and site leadership sought more information to determine the best course of action,” the school’s email read.

SEE ALSO: Spring 2016 Allergy Report

San Juan Unified School District elaborated on the decision in a statement provided to ABC10 News: “Our Health Services Department recommended cancelation based on documented research about the dangers of inhaling particulate matter, and, out of an abundance of caution, our site and district leadership agreed.”


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While the overwhelming number of people who attempt these runs and successfully complete them — in many cases repeatedly — lends credence to the The Color Run’s own claims of safety, allergist Sunil Perera, MD, said people with corn allergies, or those with respiratory illnesses, should not run these races.


“They should check with their doctors. If they’re not allergic to corn and if they don’t have respiratory issues, and their lungs are not compromised illnesses, they [can] participate,” Perera said.


So, if you’re planning on participating in a color run this summer, be careful and perhaps double check with a quick phone call to your doctor if you normally have issues with things such as corn or cornstarch. Otherwise, happy running!

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