Synthetic chemicals are used to make 96 percent of products in the United States, from couches and carpets to the clothes we wear. Many of these chemicals are harmful. But we have little data about exactly what chemicals we are exposed to every day.
Tiny wearable monitors
It used to be that tracking what chemicals a person came in contact with required bulky, expensive electronic monitors. But wearable technology is changing that. Now, simple wristbands can show a more complete picture of the chemicals in our everyday environment.
The wristbands, produced by MyExposome, look deceptively simple. But using technology developed at Oregon State University, they act as sponges to absorb chemicals in the air, water and everyday consumer products.
Analysis in a lab then shows which of up to 1,400 chemicals were present in the participant's environment.
We can't avoid chemical exposure
EDF has partnered with MyExposome to conduct pilot projects using the wristbands. In the latest project, participants from across the U.S. wore the wristband for a week to learn about chemicals in their environment.
Averi, a college student living in Ohio, came into contact with a number of chemicals that can be found in personal care products, such as lotions, shampoos and conditioners.
In an earlier project, EDF engaged 28 participants to wear the wristbands, also for a week. The results were alarming. We found 57 chemicals, including carcinogens, toxic flame retardants and endocrine disruptors.1
Among the participants were EDF staff and board members as well as outside experts in public health. Many of them already take steps to avoid chemicals in everyday products. Yet, in just one week, every one of the participants came into contact with chemicals tied to serious health concerns.
Emerging technologies like these wristbands are helping to build a more robust body of information that can shed light on the best ways to reduce harmful exposures and protect health.
That's why EDF is working to catalyze innovation, investment and research using such tools.
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- In this pilot, we didn't measure the amount present so no conclusions can be drawn about the health risks.