Tracking Chemical Exposure with Colorful Wristbands

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Professor Kim Anderson of Oregon State University went to a college football game and got a very creative idea.

She observed fans sporting colorful wristbands, and decided to develop look-alike bands using a specialized silicone polymer. But her wristbands will be doing an investigative task as well – collecting data and tracking chemical exposure. Her target participants were school kids and construction site workers. After wearing the bands from a week to a month, researchers collected the bands, extracted the compounds, and screened them using GC/MS – a gold standard identification method used from pharmaceutical industry to forensics. So far 57 compounds were found in the bands, out of a targeted 1400 chemicals.

 MyExposome, a start-up biotech company in Corvallis, OR, which specializes in passive sampling technologies, developed the bands. The company designed the specialty polymer for optimal absorption of a diverse set of daily chemicals ranging from fire-retardants, personal care products and various compounds from pesticides. The bands are currently unavailable for the individual buyer, but the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), in a joint effort with Myexposome is making them available to the public for expanding the research project. So far 5000 volunteers have signed up.

Dr. Anderson hopes to get funding for a larger design of her project, “You don’t have to wait for a disaster like a Flint”..she comments referring to the drinking water fiasco in Flint, Michigan. “We have developed a technology that inspires people to think about science and their environment and hopefully even act about their environment.”

> View the article abstract: Using silicone wristbands to evaluate preschool children’s exposure to flame retardants. Environ. Res.; May 2016