Rubber bracelets are widely used for different purposes among all age groups. Besides being a fashionable accessory, this type of bracelet can be used as awareness bands, party give ways, fundraising item, political paraphernalia, business promotion, identification tags and as a personalized gift. But in 2004, a new use for these bands was discovered: rubber bracelets can be used to monitor pollutants in the environment.
According to a study conducted by the Oregon State professors, rubber bracelets can tell “how dirty the air has become.” Researchers from the university discovered that these bracelets can be helpful in tracking harmful carcinogens in the environment. It was claimed that traditional wristbands can actually soak chemicals once it is exposed to the environment.
A popular brand of rubber bracelet, Live strong, was used to conduct tests to prove the claim. 30 respondents were asked to wear the bands for a month. After the experiment, the researchers found out the bracelets made of rubber can absorb toxins at the same rate as human cells.
The scientists dubbed the rubber bracelets as “personal chemical monitoring devices” because it can effectively detect chemicals and absorb them. This study was published in the paper “Silicon Wristbands as Personal Passive Samplers” where the experiment was completely described: two sets of people from two different setting wore the bracelets.
To gather a good comparison on the amount of chemical substances the bracelets can absorb, they researched on two sample groups: workers near hot asphalt and ordinary people living in the city.
Results showed that these bracelets were able to absorb around 76 toxins and containments from both experiment groups. Among the chemical compounds found were: cosmetic and fragrance chemicals, tar, coal, pesticides, oil pollutants, flame retardants and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons. The usual drink contents such as caffeine and nicotine were also found in the samples.
According to the researchers, the silicone component of the bracelets served as the sponge that soaks up the toxins and the different chemical substances. The rubber bracelets made it easier for researchers and scientists to accurately measure the amount of substances that are freely floating in the air people that breathe. The study’s head researcher Kim Anderson revealed that scientists used to rely on bulky equipment just to get samples in proving correlation between human health problems and industrial toxins. It was difficult to see which of the thousands of chemical compounds can lead to disease, because no all of them have been tested for toxicity.
The discovery of the new use of rubber bracelets was a game changer in the field. Usage of silicon-made bands made way for accurate assessment of people’s exposure to hazardous chemicals. It not only it proved to be effective pollutant monitoring devices, but it also promises a better and more convenient way to assess different health conditions caused by chemical compounds.
The Oregon State University believes that the bands can contribute to monitor environmental exposures in marginalized communities where pollutants and toxic levels were reportedly high. They suggest pregnant women to wear the silicon-made bands to help doctors and environmental scientist determine the pollutants that may affect the unborn baby, and possibly foretell the kinds of diseases the child may acquire in the future. Through this, treatments and preventions can be done while the baby is still in the womb.
In any case, the cheap and stylish rubber bracelets have proven to be worth more than it used to be. Now, it not only acts as a fashionable advertising tool but an essential device to improve health, environment, and ultimately the society in general. Researchers believe that the bands can change the way people keep track of the chemicals in the surroundings and that they could hugely contribute in the understanding of airborne cancers and illnesses.