Exercise Emissions Cause Chemical Reactions

Jan. 7, 2021

New year, new set of goals. First one on the list for me is to get to the gym more. I’m fortunate that my facility is very proactive in adhering to COVID guidelines; all equipment is spread out, everything is cleaned every two hours in addition to spot-cleaning after each machine is used, we are quizzed about exposure each time we enter the facility and our temperature is taken. We also have to wear a mask at all times unless we are using the pool. Additionally, there are hand-sanitizer stations everywhere. I feel very safe.

Well, I did feel safe until I came across recent research that says my exercise-fueled emissions interact with cleaning products and lead to a whole new chemical composition.

According to a University of Colorado Boulder study, human emissions, including amino acids from sweat or acetone from breath, chemically combine with bleach cleaners to form new airborne chemicals with unknown impacts to indoor air quality.

The study was done pre-pandemic (2018). Researchers outfitted a weight room on campus with a suite of air-sampling equipment that measured airborne chemicals in real time before, during and after workouts. The results: people produce 3-5 times the emissions while working out, compared to when they were at rest.

The team also discovered that the cleaning products combine with emissions from sweat to form a new cocktail of chemicals called N-chloraldimines—a reaction product of bleach with amino acids—in gym air.

Fortunately, the research team says their results illustrate that a modern gym with low occupancy and good ventilation may still be relatively safe for a workout, especially if masks are used. This is very good news for me -- a person who can be talked out of going to the gym for myriad reasons. The neighbor’s car won’t start? Shoot…guess I will have to skip my workout.

You can read all about the study here.

Traci Purdum bought a new FitBit that tracks her steps and sleep patterns. Guess which she is excelling in currently? 

About the Author

Traci Purdum | Editor-in-Chief

Traci Purdum, an award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering manufacturing and management issues, is a graduate of the Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kent, Ohio, and an alumnus of the Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.