New Research Shows High Body Emissions During Exercise, Strengthened By Chemical Reactions With Cleaners

University of Colorado Boulder cheerleaders perform at Dal Ward Athletic Center in 2018. Credit: Katie Weeman / CIRES

A person who is sweating, bloating, exercising removes many chemicals from his body up to five people who do not live, according to a recent study by the University of Boulder Colorado. In particular, human emissions were included amino acids from sweat or acetone from breathing, chemicals combine with bleaching to form new air chemicals with an unknown effect on indoor air quality.

“Humans are a great source of emissions,” said Zachary Finewax, CIRES research scientist and lead author of a new study in the current edition Indoor Weather, “And chemicals in the indoor air, whether from our bodies or cleaning products, not only simply disappear, they linger and travel outside the room like a gym, reacting to other chemicals.”

In 2018, the CU Boulder team adjusted the weight space at the Dal Ward Athletic Center — a campus facility for university student athletes, from lifters to cheerleaders — and in-air equipment. The instrument collects data from heavy space and providing air, measuring air chemicals in real time before, during and after CU athlete training. The team found that athletes’ bodies produce 3-5 times the amount of emissions at work, compared to when they rest.

“Using our advanced equipment, this is the first time indoor indoor gym analysis is done by this advanced level. We can capture emissions in real time to see exactly how many chemicals are being released, and at what level,” said Demetrios Pagonis. postdoctoral researchers at CIRES and co-authors on new work.

Many gym facilities often use chlorine bleach-based products to clean sweat equipment. And while these cleaning products are used to kill surface bacteria — they also combine with the emissions of sweat – mixing to form new chemicals.

This team first observed a chemical group called N-chloraldimines – a reaction product of bleach and amino acids – in gym temperatures. That means chlorine from the bleach bleach is sprayed onto the reacting device with amino acids released from the sweaty body, the authors report.

And although more research is needed to judge these specific effects on indoor air quality, the same chemical reaction products of ammonia with bleach can be harmful to human health.

“Because people spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, it is important that we understand the chemical behavior in the room that we take,” said Joost de Gouw, CIRES Fellow, professor of Chemistry at CU Boulder and associated author of the paper. Although researchers have collected all the data for this pre-pandemic, the team stated the results show that modern gyms with low residences and good ventilation are still considered safe for training, especially if masks are used.

References: “Quantification and characterization of volatile organic compounds from the training and application of chlorine-based cleaning products at athletic sports centers” by Zachary Finewax, Demetrios Pagonis, Megan S. Claflin, Anne V. Handschy, Wyatt L. Brown, Olivia Jenks, Benjamin A Nault, Douglas A. Day, Brian M. Lerner, Jose L. Jiménez, Paul J. Ziemann and Joost A. de Gouw, December 18, 2020, Indoor Weather,
DOI: 10.1111 / ina.12781

“Quantification and characterization of volatile organic compounds from the training and application of chlorine-based cleaning products at university athletic centers” published in Wiley’s Indoor Air on December 18, 2020. Authors include: Zachary Finewax (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry), Demetrios Pagonis (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry), Megan S. Claflin (Aerodyne Research), Anne V. Handschy (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry), Wyatt L. Brown (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry), Olivia Jenks (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry), Benjamin A. Nault (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry), Douglas A. Day (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry), Brian M. Lerner (Aerodyne Research), Jose L. Jiménez (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry), Paul J. Ziemann (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry), Joost A. de Gouw (CIRES, CU Boulder Chemistry).

The authors thank the Sloan Foundation for funding the measurements and equipment used in this study, and the CU Boulder Dal Ward Athletic Center for the use of its facilities to collect all data for this work.

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