He Sweats for a Living (Jan, 1948)
He Sweats for a Living
It’s no gag! It takes torrents of sweat to make first-class fabrics!
By Don Romero
VISITORS to a recent textile exposition were astounded to discover something which they had been hearing about all their lives but never believed they would ever actually see. They found a man who was literally “sweating to make a living.” Wearing only a pair of shorts, and seated in a room which had been heated to 125 degrees, they found husky six-foot-two Eugene Belner repeatedly swathing himself with samples of fabrics, covering himself with a water-resistant cape to increase his body temperature, and then patiently letting the beads of perspiration roll down his huge frame to be finally blotted up by the fabrics.
Belner was billed as the “Human Perspirator.” He was performing this extraordinary oozing for the very practical purpose of testing the color fastness and durability of the various fabrics which he kept soaking up with perspiration. While most men can’t stand a gymnasium hot-room for more than an hour, he, incredibly enough, sweated it out eight hours a day, five days a week, for the entire four weeks of the exposition, during which time he rolled over a neat 30 gallons of perspiration.
Although Belner was the hit of the show he finally decided that the job was all wetâ€”in more ways than one. Being a 280-pounder who was anxious to lose weight, he had jumped at the chance of being well paid while he reduced. But it didn’t work out quite that way. In order to replenish the torrential outpour of water from his body, Belner found that he had to keep swilling down bucket after bucket of beer as well as large quantities of dextrose and sodium. The result was that while some of the fabrics shrunk, Belner didn’t. During the entire four weeks of the exposition he lost barely 10 pounds.
There was. however, one compensation on which he hadn’t counted. Since the type of food that one eats determines the type of perspiration that one exudes, Belner found himself living the life of an epicure. If a fabric was destined for export to Italy, Belner was required to spend the next 24 hours eating pizza and spaghetti. If the fabric was to go to Scandinavia, he gorged himself on smorgasbord. And if the fabric was to go to Mexico, he ate nothing but beans, chili, and rice. As a result, exposition visitors who were inclined to pity Belner his arduous work were surprised to find his sweat-beaded face constantly wreathed in smiles. As a former hardworking mechanic who had also spent three very tough years in the Army Air Forces, Belner had only one remark to make. “I’ve been sweating all my life, and it’s fine just for once to get paid for it.”
Belner’s spectacular sweating, however, wasn’t entirely the side-show stunt that most exposition visitors believed it to be. To manufacturers of such products as cosmetics, hair lotions, soaps, deodorants, anti-perspirants and wearing-apparel fabrics, perspiration is constantly posing serious problems that can be adequately solved only under laboratory conditions. Because of the constant need, therefore, to test and retest these products, there has developed a steady demand for “experimental perspiration,” with the result that various research laboratories have now set up “sweating chambers” to which professional perspirers may go to donate perspiration for a fee in much the same way that professional blood donors go to hospitals to sell blood. Like the blood-banking hospitals, these laboratories also have call lists of donors, most of whom consist of stoutish housewives who are only too glad to be paid for losing a few pounds, or of overweight men who find that a laboratory sweating chamber is just as good as a turkish bath, or of out-of-work actors who feel that if they are going to sweat out being unemployed they might just as well do it for dough in a laboratory chamber.
To collect the perspiration from their donors, the laboratories have devised a very simple and efficient method. After a donor has passed a physical examination, he is placed nude in a sterile rubber bag which is drawn up around his body and closed by means of a drawstring around his neck. The donor may then either be placed in a room heated to about 105 degrees, and be periodically fed hot tea to stimulate his perspiring, or he may be lowered into a bathtub filled with about 20 gallons of water whose temperature is gradually raised to 115 degrees. Depending on the amount of perspiration he wishes to lose, the donor may be left in the tub from 15 to 30 minutes, during which time he may lose anywhere from a pint to a quart and a half.
While to some people it may sound like a grueling way to make a few dollars, actually the donor experiences no more discomfort than he would in an ordinary electric-bulb reducing cabinet. Thermocouples placed on the chest, back and abdomen, and registering on a Micromax Thermometer Recorder, show that during the period of immersion the skin temperature of the average donor usually rises from about 90 to less than 100 degrees F. At the end of the sweating period the bag is removed and the total accumulation either used by the collecting laboratory itself, or promptly shipped to a laboratory which has no collecting chambers of its own.
Probably the greatest industrial interest in perspiration comes from fabric manufacturers who have found that not only does the average adult lose between 500 and 3,000 grams, of perspiration a day, depending on the heat of the day, but that when this perspiration is brought in contact with the bacteria to be found in the air, on the skin, or on wearing apparel, there immediately develops a decomposition which tends to make the perspiration extremely destructive of any fabric it saturates. As a result, fabric manufacturers are constantly seeking after new germicidal compounds with which their materials can be treated so that they will resist not only the color-fading effects of perspiration but also its tendency to reduce the fabric’s tensile and abrasion strength as well as its resistance to deterioration from rain and sunshine.
The Odor Meter
Dr. Barailâ€™s odor meterâ€”called an Osmometerâ€”is an air-dilution machine in which quantities of odorous and odor-free air are mixed together in known concentrations. Essentially it comprises a source of compressed air, a flow meter, an air washer, a mixing jar, a tube in which the odorous sample is contained, a pressure gauge, and an outlet funnel.
After being immersed in a perspiration whose odor potency has already been measured, the chemically-treated sample is placed in the Osmometerâ€™s sample tube. A measured volume of odor-free and moisture-free air is then forced through the sample and carried into the mixing jar, while additional fresh air is introduced directly into the jar until it attains a final pressure which is kept constant for all measurements. A valve then releases the mixture, which emerges as a very thin stream through the outlet funnel.
If the technicians conducting the test find, in placing their noses directly over the stream, that no odor is detectable, the amount of air being forced through the sample is increased, and the flow of fresh air into the jar proportionally decreased, until the odor is just barely perceptible. By knowing, then, with mathematical preciseness the concentration at which the odorous air is detectable in the mixture, the technicians are able to give a numerical rating to the sampleâ€™s odor potency. By comparing this rating with that of an untreated sample, they establish the effectiveness of the odor-suppressing compound. Final measuring must be done with the human nose. Tests made by technicians show readings never vary more than five per cent.