Researchers use silicone wristbands to measure air quality

There are all sorts of cheap silicone wristbands that people buy and wear today for style and to support various causes. Recently, scientists at Texas A&M University School of Public Health conducted a study and found that inexpensive devices like silicone wristbands can be used to yield qualitative air quality data. Researchers believe that type of data is particularly important for periods where people are more susceptible to pollutants, such as during pregnancy.

The team found that wristbands can be used as passive samplers and can bind smaller molecular weight semi-volatile polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are class chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline. They're also produced when coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, and tobacco are burned. The wristbands could passively sample PAHs in a similar pattern as what is achieved in active sampling.

The study focused on pregnant women in Hildago County in South Texas. That area was chosen because of the increased prevalence of childhood asthma in the region and a higher rate of premature birth than the rest of the state. Specifically, the study aimed at quantifying maternal PAH exposure in pregnant women residing in McAllen, Texas.

During the study, participants wore backpacks containing air sampling equipment. Silicone wristbands were also attached to each backpack. The equipment was worn for three consecutive 24-hour periods. The sampling equipment and wristbands were then analyzed for PAHs. Researchers point out that prenatal exposure to PAHs has been proven to impact the health of children adversely.

The team found patterns of detection are similar for low-molecular-weight compounds and that attaching the wristbands to the backpack strap is a good sampling design for evaluating conditions under which the wristbands can be used to quantify PAHs in the air. Researchers say the study supports that wristbands used as passive samplers can be helpful in future studies to evaluate adverse health outcomes for prenatal PAH exposure.