Pool playing could pose health problems

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A pool cue can be a dangerous thing and not just when used in a bar room brawl.

The chalk at the end of that cue could also be hazardous to your health.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has warned that at least two brands of green pool-cue chalk available in Arizona Master and Pioneer have been found to contain dangerously high levels of lead.

Although infants and children are at greatest risk, chronic lead exposure can cause swelling of brain tissue, fatigue, headaches, irritability and kidney effects. Large exposures can even result in death.

The ADHS, in coordination with Samaritan Regional Poison Center, tested 18 brands of billiard chalk at a laboratory in Golden, Colo. after pool cue chalk was found to have played a role in the lead poisoning of a two-year-old Phoenix boy.

Master green chalk, made in Chicago, tested as high as 8,000 parts per million of lead, and Pioneer green chalk, made in Taipei, Taiwan, exceeded 7,000 ppm. By comparison, lead-based paint, which was discontinued for use in housing in 1978, has a standard lead content of 5,000 ppm.

Cheryl Carpenter, a certified poison information specialist, said 40 micrograms per deciliter of blood is considered a toxic level of lead for an adult.

That is twice the toxic level for children.

Carpenter said the danger for adults is not substantial and is not an issue for an adult who plays pool occasionally.

"I'd be concerned about (people who manufacture the chalk), or pool hall employees dealing with it constantly," she said.

While Sam's Place in the Student Union could not be reached to find out the brand of chalk used, two local pool halls said they use one of the chalks with high lead levels.

Representatives from Clicks Billiards, 3325 N. First Ave., and Troy Billiards, 1062 S. Wilmot Road, said Master chalk is used in their establishments.

Other brands tested in the Samaritan study were found to contain either no lead or very insignificant traces of lead. Those include Imperial and National Tournament brands of green chalk, Superior, Triangle and National Tournament brands of orange chalk and all brands of blue chalk tested.

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