Silicone bracelets à la the Livestrong era may seem like the ultimate throwback, but thanks to an injection of some pretty interesting low tech, they’re making quite the comeback. Researchers at Oregon State University have found a new use for the brightly colored wrist bands, and while it won’t track your heart rate or send you text notifications, it will help you detect environmental pollution.
In a recently published study, OSU scientists asked 92 preschool children to wear these once popular bracelets to determine their degree of exposure to fire retardant chemicals, which the researchers suspected to be present as an environmental hazard. Because the bracelets are comfortable, non-toxic, and really don’t pose a risk to the wearer in any manner, they’re ideal tools for monitoring the presence of chemicals. And because silicone absorbs compounds floating about in the air, these bands serve as an excellent basis for an experiment along these lines.
The children wore the bracelets for a week, after which the OSU team tested the silicone and found that 60 percent of the bracelets contained quantities of flame retardants. Moreover, the researchers were able to detect half of the chemicals they set out to search for, which included several that are supposedly no longer made in the U.S. This, researchers say, could be the data that parents and government officials need to make changes necessary to protect children from these potentially harmful chemicals. After all, the recognition of a problem is the first step.
While this flame-retardant study was the first use of silicone bracelets in a scientific capacity, researchers are hopeful that they can use the same technique in future experiments as well. OSU believes that these bands could be useful in examining the interaction between chemicals, the environment, and human health. Presently, researchers are conducting another study regarding prenatal exposure to certain compounds by having expectant mothers wear wristbands in the final trimester of their pregnancy. So don’t get rid of that yellow band just yet — you never know when it may come in handy.