Environmental exposure, or exposomes, plays a critical role in public health, as Elise Miller, Director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment discussed on a recent segment of HealthStyles.
Exposomes encompass indoor and outdoor toxins, as well as behavioral factors like nutrition, stress, and lifestyle. Researchers are working on new technologies to better understand the links between exposomes and long-term health effects on a wide range of compounds.
Simple silicone wristbands – like the ones worn for cancer awareness or animal cruelty — may be an inexpensive means to detect potential disease risks of exposure to substances like pesticides. According to a recently published study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, people breathe, touch and ingest a low-level mix of natural and synthetic substances every day.
However, determining exactly which compounds can lead to disease is difficult. Thousands of these compounds are in common consumer products and industrial processes, but only a handful have been tested for toxicity. While many studies have associated some of these substances to health problems, establishing true cause and effect requires long-term measurements, according to the study authors.
Toxin exposure is currently monitored by volunteers wearing heavy backpack samplers, questionnaires or with stationary devices, which all have disadvantages. So investigators turned to commercially available silicone wristbands to more accurately assess an individual’s exposure to possible toxins because of silicone’s ability to absorb a wide range of compounds.
After volunteers wore cleaned wristbands for various periods of time, researchers measured what the silicone had absorbed: 49 different substances, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), some of which have been linked to cancer, plus compounds from pesticides and consumer products.
“We can screen for over 1,000 chemicals that may accumulate in the wristbands,” said co-author Kim Anderson. “Currently, PAHs, pesticides, flame retardants, PCBs, industrial chemicals and consumer and pharmaceutical products have been quantified in wristbands.”
These bands could be a cost-effective, readily available tool for determining individual exposures to specific compounds and aid in detecting exposure limits and compliance measurements. It seems to hold much promise for impacting public health efforts on many levels.