Weichardt claims to have demonstrated the presence of an organic body in the expired air. He allowed the exhaled breath to pass through hydrochloric acid solution, evaporated the resulting solution to dryness on a water bath, and obtained a weighable residue which charred on ignition. If he neutralized the acid solution and concentrated it under reduced pressure, he obtained a solution which inhibited the bluing of the guaiacum indicator by blood. By exposing calcium chloride in a room in which the air had been vitiated, he claimed also to have obtained a substance from the air which prevented the bluing of the guaiacum indicator by blood.
The experiments here recorded show that a variable amount of matter is retained by weak hydrochloric solution when exhaled breath is passed through it, and that this matter is volatile on ignition. Contrary to the findings of Weichardt, there is no charring or blackening. Nesslerization shows the residue to consist mainly, if not wholly, of ammonium chloride. This ammonia is believed to have come from the decomposition of food particles about the teeth. In one case the person (S.) had smoked just before the experiment, so that a small amount of the ammonia from the tobacco smoke may have been held temporarily by the saliva and food particles in the mouth and been given off gradually during the experiment. Weichardt's experiments on the inhibition of the guaiacum test for blood by means of the substances retained when exhaled breath is passed through hydrochloric acid or over calcium chloride crystals are not corroborated. It is further shown that the guaiacum indicator is unreliable for these tests in view of the fact that a small amount of free acid or free alkali will inhibit the guaiacum test for blood. This fact is offered as a probable explanation of Weichardt's results.
Calcium chloride alone gives a deep blue color with the guaiacin indicator. Weichardt used this salt to collect from the expired breath certain unknown substances which he claims inhibit the oxidation of guaiacum by blood. His results are therefore inconclusive.
The phenolphthalin test for blood has been studied in this connection and further light has been thrown on this reaction. The sodium salt of phenolphthalin is colorless in alkaline solution, and is readily oxidized by minute quantities of blood to phenolphthalein which gives a characteristic deep purplish red color in alkaline solution.
It has been found that the presence of calcium chloride and ammonium chloride in small amounts retards and, in large amounts, prevents this reaction. It is believed that any salt composed of a weak base combined with a strong acid will have the same effect. This is discussed in the text. It has also been shown that the presence of calcium chloride or ammonium chloride decreases the depth of color of phenolphthalein in sodium hydroxide solution.
Carbon dioxide also prevents the oxidation of phenolphthalin by blood. Of course this does not mean that carbon dioxide prevents the action of the oxidizing ferments generally. In this particular case the substance to be oxidized, namely phenolphthalin, was not allowed by reason of the presence of the carbon dioxide to combine with the alkali and thereby assume a state in which it could be easily oxidized.
The results of one experiment seem to indicate a relation between the amount of dissolved oxygen in the solutions and the percentage of oxidation. Sodium chloride either alone or with the aid of hydrogen peroxide is able to bring about the oxidation of phenolphthalin in alkali to a very slight extent (3.5 to 5 per cent. in twenty-four hours). Therefore phenolphthalin as a test for oxidizing ferments should not be used in the presence of an appreciable amount of inorganic salts or carbon dioxide. Complete dialysis is recommended in these cases. It is also to be noted that the great delicacy of the test allows considerable dilution.
Liquids were obtained from the expired breath by passing this through weak hydrochloric acid or by condensing the moisture in it by conducting it through cooled Drechsel bottles. Attempts were then made to prove the presence in these liquids of some substance which inhibits the oxidation of phenolphthalin by blood, but all were unsuccessful. Moreover attempts to concentrate these liquids by evaporation under reduced pressure or by the passage of a direct current (colloidal travel) were also unsuccessful.
It is planned to improve upon the apparatus used to concentrate colloids by the passage of a direct current, and to test the effect of expired breath products on the rate of oxidation of phenolphthalin by blood.