a silicone strap measures the air quality

THE ESSENTIAL

  • Attached to a backpack, these silicone bracelets have proven to be as effective as traditional methods of measuring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) pollution.
  • They could prove to be of great help in assessing the adverse health effects of prenatal exposure to PAHs.

An object no thicker than a bracelet, which fits in the hand and provides real-time data on pollutants in the air. This is what researchers at the School of Public Health at A&M University in Texas, United States, have just developed. In a study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology of Nature, they explain the usefulness of these silicone bracelets during pregnancy, during which air pollution can have disastrous consequences on the health of the future child.

Very reliable passive samplers

The peculiarity of these bracelets is that they are used as passive samplers, that is to say that they are able to fix the semi-volatile polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) of lower molecular weight. These chemicals are naturally found in coal, crude oil and gasoline, as well as in the combustion of other elements such as gas, wood, waste and tobacco.

To quantify maternal exposure to PAHs in pregnant women, the researchers followed women residing in Hidalgo County, South Texas. This particular region was chosen because of its high prevalence of childhood asthma and for its higher prematurity rate than the rest of the state.

To collect the data, the participants wore backpacks containing air sampling equipment. A silicone strap was also attached to each backpack. After three non-consecutive 24 hour periods, the air sampling equipment and wristbands were analyzed for PAHs.

By comparing the data collected, the researchers found that the bracelets gave similar results to more traditional testing methods.

“The use of bracelets is attractive because it is inexpensive and easy to wear, says Itza Mendoza-Sanchez, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH). The bracelets have been used to detect a number of pollutants, but the qualification of these pollutants remains a challenge. Our goal was to assess how well we can use the bracelets as passive samplers to quantify PAHs in air. “

According to the researcher, “Attaching the bracelets to the backpack strap is a good sampling plan to assess the conditions under which the bracelets could be used to quantify PAHs in air”.

The harmful effect of pollutants on unborn children

For the authors of the study, the use of these bracelets can also prove to be of great help in studying the effects of prenatal exposure to PAHs on the health of future babies.

“The mother’s exposure to PAHs during pregnancy is particularly harmful for the health of children, because it is a phase of rapid growth and development in humans, says Natalie Johnson, lead author of the study. Thus, easy methods to quantify exposure to PAHs are critically needed in order to assess risk and develop effective intervention strategies. “

According to the researcher, the results of this study confirm that the bracelets used as passive samplers could be useful in future studies evaluating the adverse health effects of prenatal exposure to PAHs.

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