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How Wristbands Help With Hurricane Harvey Research

(Jan 23rd 2019)

Made popular by Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong bands, silicone wristbands have gained new use

and popularity among researchers and public health specialists looking to study unique exposures of individuals. Because of their low cost, easy tran

sport, shelf-stable components, wristbands make the perfect sampling device.

Reinventing the Wristband’s Purpose

Chemical sampling wristbands were invented (1) by Oregon State University (OSU) professor and director of the Food Safety and Environmental Stewardship Program, Kim Anderson. Using an easy-to-use method of measuring exposure to environmental pollutants, the wristbands help in absorbing chemicals from the skin and air. There are alternatives where people can “wear a two-pound battery pack, while a fan pulls air over a solid cartridge, and it is worn for two days,” says Anderson. However, it's obviously “much easier to wear a wristband.”

The wristbands created by Dr. Anderson are porous and chemically similar to human or mammal cells, therefore molecules of contaminants can push themselves into the silicone exactly as they would with cells in a body.

Three Simple Steps To Help with The Reseach

  1. The silicone wristbands are used to gradually measure chemicals from the surrounding environment.
  2. Chemicals are then extracted and identified by researchers.
  3. Chemical data is compared by researchers to spirometer readings or geographic locations from cell phones. 

Benefits of Using Silicone Wristbands

Compared to other sampling devices, wristbands are able to absorb volatile and semi-volatile compounds straight from the air. Research in recent years on wristbands supports the time-sensitive geo-location sensitivity of these types of passive samplers.

In New York City, Dr. Anderson’s team conducted an experiment on twenty-two pregnant participants. The study found that when wearing both a wristband and backpack sampler for 48 hours, the wristband proved to be more closely correlated with chemical exposures than ones from the backpacks.

This research led OSU to Houston, Texas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to find out (2) exactly what toxic chemicals from the lurking floodwaters Houstonians were exposed to. Anderson and her colleagues, Holly Dixon, Peter Hoffman, and Lane Tidwell collaborated with Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas, and Texas A&M on the project. It is incredible how wristbands can detect chemicals in the houston area flood water.

Wristband Results

In the weeks following Hurricane Harvey, the results (3) that arised from the wristband study were shocking. Houstonians’ levels of exposure were concerning, with several being linked to serious health risks like cancer. It is unclear if the levels of chemicals were a direct result from the hurricane, but it is certain that without the wristbands, the testing would have never been possible.

Rapid Wristbands Contributing Towards the Research

Houston wristband manufacturer Rapid Wristbands offer latex-free products for individuals and organizations globally. Available in a variety of colors, these industrial-strength, waterproof wristbands would be perfect for future research endeavors. Rapid Wristbands would love to offer their wristbands for Dr. Anderson’s follow up research regarding Hurricane Harvey, and or any other studies she and OSU pursue. Environmental health should be a priority and we are glad to give away wristbands for the research.

To learn more about wristbands for research or ordering wristbands of your own, please visit us


Oregon State University (1)

NIH (2)

KGW8 (3)


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