Have you noticed new friends around the gym? No, not people – air filters!

“SGA has always had a problem with dust, given that the chalk [calcium carbonate] gymnasts use on the feet, hands and grips goes everywhere,” says our Chairman, John Sweeney. “For 34 years we’ve looked for filters, fans, ventilation systems — whatever it would take to get rid of it. Now, we’ve found a high tech solution: OmniClean Pro Series industrial air cleaners.”

“We’ve placed four or five of these around each gym in the company, at a cost of $95,000 or so,” he continues. “These filters can push through six air changes per hour in their air column. In the process, they filter the air with a MERV-11 pre-filter for larger airborne particles, such as pollen and dust. Then they run the air through a carbon media filter that removes inorganic chemicals, gases, VOCs, and odors (think: stinky feet smell). Next there is an ultraviolet, sealed chamber germicidal irradiation of pathogens (which also disinfects the HEPA filter in the next stage). The HEPA then filter captures sub-micron particles at 99.98% efficiency; think: COVID.”

We’ve always placed priority on keeping the air in the gyms as clean as possible by way of our existing HVAC / filters, and during / following increased emphasis and necessity during the pandemic, by keeping garage doors open coupled with the use of fans. But there are times when these methods weren’t great (winter), or even possible (wildfire smoke). We are excited and hopeful about the benefits these new air filters can provide.

“In our first tests, they reduced the particulate count in our air by 80% after one week,” says John. “The acid test will be at our 28th Street gym, which has the biggest set of bars and chalk dust problems. In January, we’ll rerun our particulate tests and report to you again.”

This is another step in our efforts to create as safe and healthy of a space for our gymnasts and community as we can. In 2014, the Washington Toxics Coalition alerted gymnastics facilities to the issue of flame retardants in loose foam (ie, our foam pits). Upon receiving this information, SGA paid for an academic study to test the dust, which did uncover toxic chemicals. “So we found a new foam supplier and became the first gym in the United States to replace all of our loose foam with flame retardant-free foam for $45,000 or so, and won an award for it. (We’re the only gym in the state that did so.),” says John (you can read more about this study and effort here). “We’re always looking for ways to make our gyms the best place to be and our new air cleaners promise to be another solid step in making gymnastics gyms ultra-safe for our kids.”

Here’s to gym environments that help us all breathe a little easier!

Photo of air filter at SGA

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