Wristbands detect chemicals in you

Published: May. 2, 2019 at 10:16 AM EDT
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Detecting chemicals or pollutants in the air has been a challenge around the world. Today’s technology is making a big difference. However, an individual approach to monitoring could have a huge impact.

You can’t see chemicals or smell them, but they’re all around us and in our environment. Researchers at Oregon State University have developed chemical detecting wristbands.

They have more than 240 volunteers in communities across three continents using them, gathering information. Holly Dixon, OSU Toxicologist says, “We had wristbands from Senegal, a farm working community in Africa. Preschoolers wore them in Oregon and Ohio."

The wrist bands act like our cells, absorbing chemicals in the same way our bodies do. Researchers then know what chemicals are in use, but what’s in the wrist banks.

So far they found the same 14 chemicals in more than half of the wristbands worn. "Whether a wristband was worn by preschoolers in Oregon or by farm workers in Senegal, Africa, the same chemicals were detected in all those wristbands," says OSU Toxicologist Holly Dixon.

Researchers say a lot of those were personal care chemicals or fragrance compounds, which are used as plasticizers in plastics around us every day.

They also say while chemicals like flame retardants, which have been linked to learning problems and lower IQ’s are well-studied. Other chemicals like those in plastics have not.

Officials add, the research underlines the importance of studying the health effects of the chemicals we are exposed to on a global basis.

Dr. Kim Anderson, an OSU Environmental Chemist says, “Are we really looking at the chemicals people are exposed to or have we gotten into a rut of looking at just some kinds of chemicals."

The next stop is to understand, how those chemicals impact our health.

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