Do you train on an indoor track that was once a converted warehouse?
Do any of my old teammates remember racing at Canadair, the old airport hangar with a wooden 200 meter indoor banked track?
Did you run at the Madison Square Garden for the Millrose Games?
I never gave much thought about the effects on running in old buildings, but we should be aware of the hazardous materials (lead paint, asbestos, just to name a few) and their effects.
For that reason, I invited Eric Stevenson to guest blog this article. Feel free to comment below.
Hazardous Structures and Finding Fitness
Last November, while undergoing routine maintenance, workers at Madison Square Garden uncovered toxic asbestos materials, forcing the complete shutdown of the facility for emergency cleaning. When a world-renowned sporting arena that welcomes countless fans through its doors every year unknowingly holds dangerous chemicals, like asbestos, it signals the danger that might lie unnoticed in any facility, especially older ones not originally intended for athletic training. However, risks like these are not exclusive to professional facilities. In fact, amateur sports complexes without the stringent facility safety requirements of public venues hold an even higher risk of containing dangerous materials.
After the countless resolutions to get into shape that inevitably accompany the New Year, it remains important for the uninitiated athlete to recognize the numerous risks of an overly-zealous dive into physical training. Despite new health conditions that might have silently appeared, like high cholesterol, insufficient safety equipment and poor training technique, the motivation to regain a flat stomach and increased endurance can lead individuals to also take risks regarding the facilities they choose to train at.
Air quality becomes an especially important consideration when exercising, with deep breathing increasing the risk of particle inhalation. After inhalation of asbestos, mesothelioma symptoms often lay dormant for decades, generally only appearing in the later stages of the disease. In addition, converted structures rarely contain the ventilation systems necessary, without major upgrades, to carry dangerous particles out of the air. If a converted facility appears to have little more than a new coat of paint on the walls, chances are its air quality purification systems have received little attention.
Even the types of facilities converted into sport complexes can increase the chances of encountering this dangerous material. Because large factories often contained heavy equipment that frequently required industrial-grade insulation, asbestos yet again becomes a consideration. Because of its natural effectiveness as an insulator, asbestos was widely used as a heat, electrical and chemical insulator until the 1970s. However, even if all traces of this mechanical insulation have been removed, its common use in flooring tiles and wall insulation make it a continued threat.
Furthermore, the wear and tear a facility undergoes contributes to the chances dangerous materials are kicked up. Asbestos, in particular, is most dangerous in a damaged form, where it can fragment into pieces that can be inhaled. With all the physical strain athletic facilities undergo, especially if not built to take such force, the exposure of dangerous materials becomes inevitable. However, as highlighted with the Madison Square Garden incident last fall, even older facilities intended for athletic events might hold dangerous chemicals, especially if built before the risks of a particular indoor pollutant were known.
While a healthy lifestyle filled with adequate exercise remains important, understanding the potential risks of working out is also important. With the modern rise in respiratory illness associated with “sick buildings,” those attempting to regain their former conditioning should be especially cognizant of the risks. Dangerous materials, like asbestos, radon gas and heavy metals make the proper training facility crucial, especially with all the strain put on the structure. Although heart disease brought on by inactivity can significantly cut a life short, asbestos exposure and the short mesothelioma life expectancy remains equally grim. After all the effort and motivation put into adopting an exercise regimen, finding the safest location to put it into practice should be the easiest step in fulfilling that New Year’s resolution and regaining your fitness.
About the Author
Eric Stevenson is a health and safety advocate who resides in the South Eastern US. For questions about this post feel free to contact him at [email protected]