The silicone rubber wristbands worn to show support for various causes may have another use, scientists from Oregon State University say in a new study. Because silicone soaks up a variety of different compounds, it can provide clues to the environmental hazards a person may be exposed to throughout their day.
For a solution, they turned to commercially available wristbands because they're made of silicone, which absorbs a wide range of compounds. After volunteers wore (modified) cleaned wristbands for various periods of time, the scientists could measure what the silicone had absorbed: 49 different substances, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), some of which have been linked to cancer, plus compounds from pesticides and consumer products.
"We can screen for over 1,000 chemicals that may accumulate in the wristbands," says Anderson. "Currently, PAHs, pesticides, flame retardants, PCBs, industrial chemicals and consumer and pharmaceutical products have been quantified in wristbands." They conclude that the bands could be a valuable tool for finally determining individual exposures and what compounds are safe and which ones come with risk.
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