Tag Archive for: sweat

I’ve played in a number of bands over the years and each had it’s own particular flavor, or style of music. I played trumpet in a jazz band, guitar in several rock bands, drums in both rock and church groups, and I played bass in rock, raggae, and groups with a heavy leaning toward soul, like bands who covered groups such as The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, A Taste of Honey (I loved thumping out the bass line in “Boogie Oogie, Oogie”), and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

But it was James Brown, another superstar musician, who came to mind when I selected the topic for today’s article and this was so because of two points. One: during his action-packed performances this iconic man of soul perspired heavily, spewing liquid like a human lawn sprinkler. Two: sweat is the focus of this post.

In a Cold Sweat

“When you kiss me
And ya miss me
You hold me tight
Make everything all right

I break out – in a cold sweat.” ~ James Brown, Cold Sweat

Actually, Brown plays no role in this piece, but the mention of his appearance on stage brings about an excellent mental picture that ties in with sweating, so off we go …

As you know, our skin is our body’s largest organ. It’s also the fastest growing. Skin is our own personal gift-wrapping, a covering that protects our “insides” and it prevents our important “stuff” from leaking out onto our furniture, floors, and city streets.

Skin is amazing; it’s made up of three layers, and it’s complicated. A lot goes on in and on our skin, such as temperature regulation and a part of that is due to the constant contraction and dilation of the blood vessels that live near the skin’s surface. This expanding and contraction controls how we transfer heat from our bodies.

Also aiding in temperature control is sweat.

Singer James Brown’s sweaty performances weren’t part of his act. Instead, his body produced sweat to help cool him as gyrated and crooned while under all those hot stage lights. Yes, Brown’s 650 sweat glands per square inch (that’s how many we each have) remained in constant overdrive when he and his band were in front of frenzied audience.

No Sweat

The familiar phrase “No Sweat” means simply that a task is easy, and it’s possible that we could hear its humble use, for example, when a case is wrapped up and a killer is behind bars.

Reporter: “Wow, you caught that killer quickly. How’d you do it?”

Detective: “No sweat.”

However, based on new crime-solving technology, “No Sweat” could indicate the possibility that a crime goes unsolved. This is where James Brown and his perspiration enter the equation.

Picture James Brown walking through a hotel lobby after one of his sweaty performances. Gravity pulled those droplets of perspiration downward. Some, of course, were absorbed into the material of his clothing but others fell to the floor, on furniture, and they transferred to anything he touched, including telephone receivers, and ink pens when signing autographs, etc.

The same is true for eothers who touches an object. Everyone leaves behind very small, invisible traces of perspiration. And, like us, bad guys are also human with human skin that is also comprised of 650 sweat glands per square inch. And they, too, leave behind those invisible specs of perspiration.

With that in mind, scientists have developed a means of analyzing deposited perspiration, with results that provide insight as to the number of people who were present at crime scenes. And, they’re able to produce those results in real time while on those scenes.

According to Jan Halámek, an assistant professor of Chemistry at the University at Albany,  each of our skin secretions are different and, therefore, unique to us. Meaning that your sweat is different than the sweat produced by the sweat glands of Jeffrey Dahmer (thank goodness).

The makeup of our sweat is so distinct that it is as unique as our fingerprints. So unique that the chances of two people having the same levels of lactate, urea, and glutamate, the three metabolites examined, is, well, essentially zero.

For now, though, investigators will have to settle for knowing only the number of people who visited a crime scene, but not their names. This is so because the levels of metabolites in humans vary with exercise and/or diet. The same is true when a person is ill.

Someday, though, someone will start a sweat database much like fingerprint and DNA databases, but with instant results. Yes, in the near future, it’s possible that a detective walks into a crime scene, holds a SweatDetector 2000 to a doorknob, and within seconds the killer’s name, address, and shoe size pops up on a handheld monitor.

And, if a case goes unsolved we’ll most likely see a phrase used to mean the opposite of what it does today, such as when a detective responds to the reporter’s question, “Why couldn’t you solve the case, Investigator?”

Her reply … “No sweat.”


Think back to your first public speaking engagement, or to an important job interview. Perhaps even to the time when you were to meet the future in-laws. Oh, and that time when the lovely Cross-Eyed Mary murdered her husband. What a day that was.

She’d thought about doing “the deed” for weeks. Then came the Saturday when she bought the pistol from the shady guy selling ice cream in the park. A quick glance at the cheap drugstore watch on her wrist indicated it was either twenty-five, or six, to four (Hey, does anybody really know what time it is?). Anyway, she knew the time had come.

The decision to end the life of another human was a heartbreaker, of course, and thinking about it often left Ms. Mary dazed, and confused. Yet, despite the good times, bad times, and a whole lotta love, what is and what never should be, finally happened. It was down by the seaside, where she figured to “do it.” And do it she did, right there in the tiny beach cottage just off Penny Lane, the place Mr. Mary fondly called his little yellow submarine. The prime piece of real estate at the end of a long and winding road. He loved that place.

Yep, that’s where it happened.

It was a scorcher that evening, with the mercury bumping 97 on the old RC Cola thermometer hanging from a bent, rusty nail hammered into one the front porch posts. The a/c unit was out of service and the repair service wasn’t scheduled to arrive until the following week.

Cross-Eyed Mary – She signs no contract

But she always plays the game …

Cross-Eyed Mary, with her sweat-soaked “I Luv Paul” t-shirt clinging to her back and pudgy belly, climbed the steps and used her key to open the door. He didn’t expect to see her there. Nor did his teenage girlfriend, Eleanor Rigby, the best friend of the Mary’s eldest daughter Michelle.

Using the back of her left hand to quickly mop away the sweat from your forehead, brows, and eyes, Miss Mary used the right to push open the door. And, just as she stepped inside she heard the creep say to his young lover, “Hold me tight, baby, and please, please me.”

The bucktoothed girl with a spattering of tiny freckles across her cheeks and nose, replied, “Baby, we’re gonna twist and shout! Wait, why don’t we do it in the road!”

That’s the line that sent Cross-Eyed Mary over the edge, according to the prosecutor. But it was the one she spoke that convinced the jury to send her away for life, and she said it after taking the stand in her own defense. She leapt to her feet and stood straight as an arrow to boldly claim that, “True happiness is a warm gun.”

She’d thought she might sway the female jurors by crying and shouting coffin-nailers such as, “I’ve been cheated!” and “I saw her standing there with the devil in her heart,” and, “I told him, ‘You’re going to lose that girl!”

What most surprised Ms. Mary during the entire experience was the moment police detectives arrived to haul her to jail for the murder of her unfaithful husband and that disgusting “little child.”

How on earth did they find out? She was so careful. Wiped away all the prints. Vacuumed. Dusted. Swept away the tire tracks. Established an airtight alibi. Tossed the gun into the ocean. Picked up the brass and tossed it behind the pistol.

No one saw her on Penny Lane and there were no cars in either of the driveways on the intersecting street, Blue Jay Way. The ice cream vendor didn’t know her. Of that she was certain. So, what? How?

Well, let’s see …

First, what do we know about the crime scene that could implicate our murderer, Ms. Mary?

The temperature displayed on the RC Cola thermometer. Remember it?The thermometer hung from a post on the front porch at the murder scene and indicated it was an extremely hot day. To make matters worse, the a/c unit was inoperable meaning the inside temperature was even hotter, in more ways than one. Ms. Mary was sweating, profusely, as people do when it’s hot, and when they’re scared or anxious.

We know why people perspire when it’s hot (to help cool down our bodies), but why so when we’re under emotional stress?

Our skin has two main types of sweat glands—eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and they open directly onto the surface of the skin. Apocrine glands develop in areas around hair follicles in places where hair is typically most abundant, such as the armpits and groin. This is the “stinky” sweat.

Apocrine glands empty into the hair follicle just prior to release onto the skin surface. Apocrine glands are found in the armpits and genital area, and release secretions (sweat) when we’re under emotional stress.

When the temperature of our bodies rise, eccrine glands secrete fluid (sweat that’s composed of mostly water and salt). The salty fluid is released onto the surface of our skin.

Okay, with that said, let’s shorten this long story.

When we’re hot we sweat. When we’re nervous we sweat. When it’s hot in a house at the beach, on Penny Lane, and a very nervous and anxious Ms. Mary goes inside that super-hot home to kill her husband and his girlfriend, well, it’s certainly safe to say she was sweating … a lot.

When sweating profusely inside a crime scene, as with skin and muscle suffering from old age and over-eating, gravity is definitely not a friend. Not at all. It pulls that body fluid downward, away from its source. Sure, some that salty liquid is absorbed by clothing, and some evaporates (this is the part of the process that cools our skin), but some of the mixture drops or is cast away from the body, landing on whichever surface that happens to be in its path.

And, since our bodies contain approximately 650 sweat glands per square inch, we also leave a bit of perspiration on everything we touch. Everything.

Within those secretions are three components that are attractive to scientists who’re hoping to use sweat to solve crimes. Those three components are: Urea, Lactate, and Glutamate.

Urea – the breakdown product of protein metabolism in the body.

Lactate – a substance produced by cells when the body turns food into energy.

Glutamate – an amino acid found in the body. Used to make proteins.

Here’s the part where science meets law enforcement. The chances of any two people having the same amounts/levels of all three—urea, lactate, and glutamate—is fundamentally zilch. Zero.

Therefore, experts now believe that they can accurately pinpoint the number of suspects and/or others who were present at the location where a crime occurred.

This process cannot identify a specific person, though. But it does provide investigators with another tool for their toolbox. Knowing how many culprits to search for is a valuable bit of information.

Testing Our Sweat

Sweat testing is not new. In fact, it’s used in many areas, such as testing for and monitoring cystic fibrosis, monitoring nutritional deficiencies, elevated glucose levels, inflammation experienced by industrial workers, and even if our medications are working properly, or not.

A sweat chloride test is used to diagnose cystic fibrosis. The testing procedure stimulates sweat production and then measures the amount of chloride.

Cystic Fibrosis

Speaking of cystic fibrosis, here’s  something you may not know:

As a former biotech company director, Dr. Denene Lofland (my wonderful wife and one of your WPA instructors) managed successful clinical projects that resulted in regulatory filings of four compounds and FDA approval for two new antimicrobial drugs for the treatment of pneumonia and cystic fibrosis. She also supervised several projects, including government-sponsored research which required her to maintain a secret security clearance.

In other words, Denene and her team developed new drugs for the treatment of both cystic fibrosis and pneumonia. She then traveled to the FDA to present the drugs for approval. The FDA approved both and each are available for prescription by physicians. Denene managed clinical trial both in the U.S. and Australia. And that last one … it’s a secret. Yep, she’s the smart one. I just carry her books, do the shopping, and cook …


Okay, how many of you noticed the references to song titles and lyrics in today’s article? Hmmm … perhaps you should take a peek because the first person to correctly identify each reference wins a special Writers’ Police Academy collectible patch!

To enter, first comment here on the blog stating that you plan to enter, and then send the list of song references/titles/lyrics to lofland32@msn.com. And please type Cross-Eyed Mary in the subject line of your email. Hint. that was a clue to song title included within the blog post. Thanks, and good luck!

WPA patch pictured here with other patches, and roles of evidence and crime scene tape.