HR Strange But True

New Tech Bracelet May Do More than Track Health—It May Save Lives

While “wearable tech” bracelets are helping workers by counting their steps and tracking their respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure, a new bracelet developed by Oregon State University (OSU) can protect their health in another important way.

According to an OSU press release, the new silicon bracelet can detect workers’ exposure to chemicals in air and water, including those that are considered toxic.

People are exposed to a range of pollutants every day, but they usually don’t know which ones, or to what degree, unless they work in a place with identified hazardous materials. Measuring a workers’ contact with toxins has been difficult, requiring expensive and bulky devices that people are often reluctant to wear for long periods of time.

However, researchers at OSU’s Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology and College of Public Health and Human Sciences have discovered a more accessible method that uses silicone bracelets to record a person’s exposure to chemicals in real-world occupational settings.

The wristbands have a porous surface that mimics human cells and absorbs contaminants that people are exposed to through their environment—or their workplace.

According to a summary of the study, a major advantage of this passive sampling device is that it is easy to wear and requires no input or action by workers. In the OSU experiment, the bracelets worn by random people soaked up nearly 50 chemical compounds, both natural and manmade, including contaminants such as dioxins and pesticides.

As part of the study, a group of roofers also wore the wristbands, which showed exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, 12 of which are on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s priority list. In total, OSU believes the bracelets will be able to screen for 1,200 chemicals that may accumulate in the wristbands.

The test group also reported no discomfort or work interference caused by the bracelets.

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