Technicalities: Heavy-Metal Sweat; October 2005; Scientific American Magazine; by Gary Stix; 4 Page(s)
I received a call several months ago from a publicist for a company promoting an infrared sauna--a machine that is supposed to heat the body, not the surrounding air, and so produce sweat more efficiently. The company, Sunlight Saunas, contends that users experience the "same healing energy that is released naturally by the sun." On its Web site, it claims, as do abundant other Internet-based sellers of infrared saunas, an amazing list of health benefits: pain relief, weight loss, detoxification, increased circulation, cholesterol removal and a boost for the "immuse [sic] system."
The sauna is supposed to emit radiation in the infrared part of the spectrum, which adjoins the microwave spectrum. I started to imagine my body undergoing a gentle, slow cook without sunburn and without any of the icky cold parts that always remain in the middle when I heat up a frozen taco in the microwave. I knew that I could use a little detox, too--and not because I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. Scientific American's offices on Madison Avenue are less than a block away from environmental monitoring equipment that measures the worst particulate levels in New York City (and some of the worst east of the Mississippi). The diesel fumes from the bus lanes there were an inspiration for an ad from the Natural Resources Defense Council that read "Standing behind this bus could be more dangerous than standing in front of it...."