Vogel on silicone wristbands that mimic how the body absorbs toxic chemicals
For one week, 92 preschool-aged children in Oregon sported colorful silicone wristbands provided by researchers from Oregon State University. The children’s parents then returned the bands, which the researchers analyzed to determine whether the youngsters had been exposed to flame retardants. The scientists were surprised to find that the kids were exposed to many polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), chemicals that are no longer produced in the U.S., as well as to organophosphate flame retardants, which are widely used as substitutes for PBDEs.
The results from that wristband study (Environ. Res. 2016, DOI:10.1016/j.envres.2016.02.034) remain qualitative—they tell parents whether their child has been exposed to a particular chemical but don’t provide information regarding the amount of exposure. The researchers, led by environmental chemist Kim Anderson, are now working on ways to extract quantitative exposure data from the bands.
EDF reported 57 chemicals were found in the bands, including PAHs, pesticides, plasticizers, phthalates, fragrances, preservatives, and flame retardants. Each band contained at least 10 and as many as 27 of the screened chemicals, with an average of 15.
The environmental group has since recruited a more geographically diverse group of volunteers, representing all 50 states and some international regions, to further test the wristbands. “We have now about 5,000 people who have signed up,” says Sarah Vogel, vice president of health programs at EDF.