We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Is Chalk Dust Harmful?

Michael Pollick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

There are two separate issues buried in the question of chalk dust safety. In one sense, the main ingredients of this dust are considered to be non-toxic, which simply means they do not pose a threat when ingested. In another sense, this material can and does accumulate in the human respiratory system, which means it can create long-term health problems due to overexposure. In short, swallowing a piece of white chalkboard chalk won't kill a person, but breathing in the dust for a number of years can create or trigger respiratory problems.

Chalk dust is the natural by-product of using a chalk crayon on a blackboard. As the chalk is scraped across the rough surface of the board, particles of it are sent out into the surrounding air. Some of this dust settles to the ground or is ventilated outside, but much of it falls on clothing, furniture, electronic equipment and shelves. Teachers and students also inhale a portion as well, which usually becomes trapped in the mucus layers of the throat and upper lungs.

A small amount of inhaled dust is not considered harmful. Those with healthy respiratory systems can expel it through coughing, and the remaining material should be absorbed safely into the body. For those with chronic breathing issues such as asthma, however, exposure can trigger a reaction. In fact, many school systems strongly urge teachers to move students with respiratory problems away from the chalkboard area. Chalkboards, trays and erasers filled with dust should also be cleaned regularly.

Standard chalk for classroom use is generally made from calcium carbonate, a processed form of natural limestone. The traditional method of creating white chalk was to form a clay-like paste with the calcium carbonate and allow it to cure in chalk-shaped molds. This chalk worked well with slate chalkboards, but it also generated a significant amount of dust that floated into the surrounding air. Teachers who used traditional chalk for a number of years developed some respiratory problems, although not generally considered severe.

There is now a product called dustless chalk, designed to address the chalk dust issue. Instead of forming crayons through individual molds, the new chalk mixture is extruded into ropes, then cut to size and allowed to dry. This dustless chalk does generate a form of dust, but the particles are much heavier and tend to fall directly to the floor instead of floating in the air. Exposure to airborne particles has been reduced, but the accumulation of dust elsewhere is still problematic.

Beyond the human health aspects of chalk dust exposure, there are also potential electronic hazards. Devices such as computers and digital versatile disc (DVD) players stored inside classrooms can suffer damage from accumulated dust. As the chalk particles circulate throughout the room, cooling fans may draw them into the computers' inner workings. As it builds up on the motherboard and other heat-sensitive parts, the risk of overheating increases. This dust can also cause severe damage to sensitive electronics, such as the laser reader of a DVD player or the playback heads of a video cassette recorder (VCR).

Chalk dust is considered an irritant and an occupational hazard by a number of occupational safety organizations around the world. People who must work around it for extended periods of time may want to use a filtered mask over the mouth and nose and taking a number of breaks in a fresh air environment. They should also use other dustless methods of communication, such as dry erase boards or overhead projectors, whenever possible.

What Kind of Respiratory Diseases Are Triggered by Chalk Dust Inhalation? 

Respiratory diseases like asthma could be triggered or heightened by chalk dust inhalation. Persistent cough and rhinitis are other diseases that may respond unkindly to chalk dust exposure. Silicosis can be caused by continuous exposure to silica, a chemical found in chalk. 

A persistent cough can occur if there is heavier exposure. While this is more likely in other dust settings, the exposure to chalk dust is enough to put those at risk. 

Though the amounts of silica in chalk dust are small, extended and repeated exposure over time can still impact the lungs and respiratory system. It is unlikely for Silicosis to form from chalk exposure because there is so little of it, but it is not impossible.

It’s important to consider alternatives to avoid this exposure for students and teachers alike, as these diseases can crop up and cause other health issues later. 

How Can You Protect Electronic Devices From Chalk Dust Exposure?

Protecting electronic devices from chalk dust exposure is very similar to how you protect them from dust exposure altogether. 

Keeping your computer as far away from your chalkboard as you can manage is a good start. After that, a surefire way to keep things from accumulating is to clean your surfaces regularly. If you cannot move your computer, cleaning your surfaces regularly will still be a protectant. 

Using wipes or spray disinfectant to regularly wipe off the dust on those surfaces will keep it from building up and getting into those little crooks and crannies.

How Can I Keep My Chalkboard, Tray, and Eraser Chalk Dust Free?

Additionally, keeping regular maintenance with the chalkboard is also essential to keep things cleaner. For example, throwing out chalk when it reaches a shorter, harder-to-use length will keep it from breaking off and creating more dust. 

Replacing your chalk erasers often will also prevent the dust from getting stuck and being deeper embedded into the material and will also ensure a cleaner service- the longer you use one, the more dust built up inside. Having a clean slate once in a while will limit the dust that is saved and kept to irritate users. 

While you can always clean your erasers, knowing when to ditch them for a new one will make erasing the board easier and, at the same time, will also prevent dust accumulation.

Wiping down the board and the chalk tray regularly also keeps things clean. However, you must pay proper attention to how because blackboards can be ruined without following the correct cleaning methods. 

Storage of the chalk can also make a difference; having a portable chalk basket can keep chalk easily accessible when teachers need it while keeping the chalk in one place. Having chalk sliding around the tray will increase the likelihood of dust moving around. 

Taking the time to rinse out the basket every week or so will keep the chalk dust collected for easy disposal and, additionally, will keep the chalk within reach. 

What Is Dustless Chalk Made Of?

Dustless chalk is still composed of calcium carbonate, like traditional chalk. During the formation process, dustless chalk is cut differently, resulting in less dust than standard chalk. 

Making the switch to dustless chalk will make a noticeable difference, but it will still be necessary to upkeep maintenance. While smaller amounts of dust are released, heavier particles still linger on the floor, so it’ll become more important to vacuum or mop those classroom floors to keep things tidy. 

Benefits of Replacing Chalkboards With Whiteboards

There are a few benefits to switching out a chalkboard for a whiteboard, some that you might not immediately expect. Beyond eliminating chalk dust exposure for students, staff, and computers, embracing the whiteboard encourages better classroom comprehension

Cleaning a whiteboard is an easier process since it requires less vacuuming and dusting. There’s also less chance for dust to make its way into computers. 

If replacing your chalkboard isn’t possible, a safe alternative is to keep your doors and windows open if possible while using chalk. Allowing air circulation will allow less chalk dust deposits on classroom surfaces and in the air.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it dangerous to breathe in chalk dust?

High levels of chalk dust in the air can be harmful to one's health and lead to coughing, wheezing, and breathing problems. Continual exposure has been linked to more serious conditions such as asthma and chronic bronchitis. Schools and companies should utilize chalkboards in well-ventilated spaces and provide sufficient ventilation for staff and students to reduce exposure.

Does chalk dust cause allergic reactions?

Indeed, some people who are exposed to chalk dust may develop allergic symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, and trouble breathing. It is advised to avoid prolonged exposure if you are sensitive to chalk dust and to use a mask when required.

Is it harmful to consume chalk dust?

It is not advised to consume chalk dust since it might upset the stomach and create other digestive problems. Large amounts of chalk dust can also make you sick to your stomach and make you throw up. It should also be kept away from children since it poses a choking risk.

Can the ecosystem be harmed by chalk dust?

Particles of chalk dust may be picked up by the wind and land in surrounding habitats, where they may contaminate the water and soil. It's crucial to properly dispose of chalk dust since it can harm both plants and animals.

Is using chalk dust for art safe?

As long as you follow the right safety procedures, using chalk dust for creative projects is typically safe. Use a mask and operate in an area with good ventilation to protect your lungs from the dust particles. Also, stay away from breathing in the dust, as it might irritate your lungs. Lastly, when the job is completed, be careful to clear away any chalk dust.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon317172 — On Feb 01, 2013

I have an addiction to eating white chalk. I have to have at least five pieces a day, sometimes more. I have been eating this chalk for the past year now. Has this chalk damaged my insides by any chance and what should I do to stop myself from eating it?

By amypollick — On Apr 02, 2012

If my generation still hasn't developed an epidemic of lung cancer or COPD, I'd say we're pretty safe. I know we breathed in a *lot* of chalk dust when we cleaned the erasers.

My dad was left-handed and a teacher. He hated the dry erase boards. He smeared it, but never did with chalk.

By anon258631 — On Apr 02, 2012

Though I imagine given our bodies are designed to deal with a lot of dust (see, planet earth), I don't know if it was designed to really inhale a lot of the same kind of dust.

Perhaps the only good thing about "real" chalk is that it is a natural product, that it is basically finely ground up rock. I'm more concerned about the effects of exposure to black marker chemicals. Though essentially they are organic alcohols and thus "natural" byproducts, I don't think nature ever meant their fumes to be up in our noses after we've processed them into pure liquid form. Did you know kids regularly get high off of just smelling plain old markers?

I think we should stay with chalk in classrooms, at least for younger children. In fact, many university professors prefer a chalkboard.

By anon136472 — On Dec 22, 2010

What about the lead that has been found in so many sidewalk chalks?

By anon123235 — On Oct 31, 2010

I use dry erase markers daily and, at the end of the day when I blow my nose, the mucus sometimes has a black color. I always felt safer with chalk.

By anon91657 — On Jun 23, 2010

if the chalk used for keeping the ants away is swallowed, does it have a harmful effect on the body?

By anon76983 — On Apr 12, 2010

Dust fling up in the air will do harm to respiratory system, because of the conventional making method of chalk. The main ingredients are calcium carbonate or lime. now a new kind chalk, named Biaxi, absolutely finishes the dust, and is welcomed by teachers and students in China. Seeing is believing!

By anon66353 — On Feb 19, 2010

Now we need to know what breathing in dry erase marker dust does to teachers. Seems like it would be a lot more dangerous. My hands are black. The black dust accumulates everywhere, even in our lungs.

By anon55009 — On Dec 03, 2009

I have heard that the DustEZE electric chalkboard chalk eraser and dust vacuum cleaner can clean chalk eraser dust very easily. Does anyone know where to buy it?

By anon8793 — On Feb 21, 2008

what are the ingredients of chalk which is used to get rid of ants?

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
On this page
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.