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Your next colored bracelet can detect environmental pollution

The low-tech wearables act a lot like human skin when it comes to absorbing certain chemicals.
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Megankhines/Flickr

Turns out your collection of neon-colored silicone bracelets have a use beyond showing support for a fallen-from-grace cyclist's non-profit after all. The material can actually trap pollutants you might be exposed to during the course of your day, according to a study by Oregon State University. Specifically, OSU was looking for how present fire retardant chemicals were in the households of 92 pre-school children. What'd the researchers find? That somehow, over the course of a week, these kids were exposed to polybrominated diphenyl ethers that aren't being produced domestically anymore.

What's more, "significant differences" revealed themselves in terms of exposure to the chemicals, the age of the houses the kids live in and how frequently vacuuming takes place, among other metrics.

Scientists seem pretty interested in the absorption properties of the bracelets beyond this study, too. Chemical & Engineering News writes that the fashion accessories are pretty similar to human skin with how they interact with pollutants. Other experiments in this vein have revealed chemical exposure levels in roofers and may even be useful for predicting if prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons leads to asthma in children.

Think of them as an extension of the grade-school science experiment where you'd put loops of cellophane tape in different locations to see what kind of pollution was in the area. Except, you know, these are a lot more effective.

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