From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published March 5, 2014 12:28 PM

New kind of wristband could help monitor environmental health

Launched in 2004, the "Livestrong" bracelet started a trend of popular wristbands that have come to represent and popularize different causes. From starting as a token to raise monies and awareness to combat cancer, the wristband has been used to promote hundreds of other avenues.

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Besides donning these bands for your favorite charity, new research suggests that a version of these bracelets may have some other benefits. By wearing the popular fashion, scientists have come up with an idea that could help us identify potential disease risks of exposure to hazardous substances. 

Kim Anderson and colleagues note that people breathe, touch and ingest a mix of many substances at low levels every day. But figuring out if natural and synthetic compounds can lead to disease is difficult. Thousands of these compounds are in common consumer products and industrial processes, but not all of them have been tested for toxicity. Research suggests that there’s a link between some of these substances and human health problems. However, establishing cause and effect definitively requires long-term measurements. 

These issues lead Anderson and her team to look for a better way to more accurately assess an individual person's exposure to possible toxins.

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.

Scientists reported the development in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Read more at the American Chemical Society.

Wristband image via Shutterstock.

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