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Name: Lacie Marie A.
Status: Student
Age: 13
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: April 2003

I do not know if this shares the concept of science. What I would like to ask is why is it that sodium is an element in body perspiration? In other terms, why is it this includes salt and how does it get there? I would also like to know the formula for this. I appreciate your time and efforts.

Dear Lacey,

This is very much about science! Our profession is driven by curiosity, and people who ask 'why is this so' to observations that others are not the least interested in, can provide break-throughs in science. Keep your curiosity alive if you ever want to be a scientist!

There is a lot to say about sodium, for it is an important ion in the physiology of a living cell, and the body needs to keep the concentration of sodium strictly regulated, both in cells and in body fluids like blood. There are specialized channels in the cell membrane to transport salt ions, including sodium. In the skin, specialized glands concentrate salt to release it to the surface of the skin in a dosed way.

One aspect that I know a bit about is what salt does on the skin: it provides a harsh environment for bacteria. Our skin is covered by bacteria and that is completely normal, but because our skin is salty many bacterial types do not grow very well on our skin. The ones that manage have adapted to grow on skin, and it is no big surprise that they are the ones that do not harm us, usually.

By the way, did you know that sweat does not smell? Only if certain types of bacteria grow in moist areas such as arm pits, they produce compounds that have a particular smell. This is how deodorants work: they kill bacteria, and at the same time provide a stronger pleasant smell to mask the smell of bacteria living in sweat.

Well, these are just few examples of what scientists have discovered about sweat and salt on skin. There is more known on the role of sodium in the cells' physiology but that is not my speciality (not one scientist knows it all). I am sure there is more to be discovered in the future if we keep asking.

Trudy Wassenaar

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