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New Wristband Measures Personal Exposure to Toxins

Silicone wristbands can sample an individual's exposure to environmental toxins. (Photo courtesy Steve O'Connell, OSU)
People around the world proclaim support for various causes by wearing colored wristbands — yellow for cancer research, pink for breast cancer, purple for animal welfare.

But Oregon State University researchers have decided to use flexible silicone bracelets to support a different cause: measuring an individual's exposure to toxins.

People are constantly exposed to all sorts of low level pollutants, from industrial compounds used in disinfectants and upholstery, to fragrances and nicotine in consumer products to pesticides.

Research suggests there is a link between some of these chemicals and health problems, but long-term measurements to confirm that are difficult to make.

While monitoring exposure is typically done with bulky and expensive equipment, OSU researcher Kim Anderson notes that the silicone used to make the wristbands absorbs a wide variety of compounds.

She and her colleagues had volunteers wear wristbands for various periods of time. They then measured levels of 49 different substances that had been absorbed.

She says that it is possible to screen for more than 1,000 chemicals.

Writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the team concludes the widely-available wristbands could be a valuable tool for determining individual exposure and potential disease risk.

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