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OSU develops band that soaks up chemicals for firefighters

Firefighters to wear chemical-eating bands developed at OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Many exposures exist when fighting fires, some of which aren’t so obvious.

Collecting chemicals starts with a firefighter outing on an extra piece of gear.

“I saw them all wearing these wristbands and I'm like, 'Yes, okay, we can make the wristband,'” Kim Anderson with Oregon State University says.

She developed these stretchy bracelets to study toxic exposures to structural firefighters.

The wristbands act as your skin – soaking up any chemicals that our body would.

“The first part of toxicity is you have to have an exposure,” she says.

The firefighters wear them when they respond to fires, testing which chemicals are able to get through the turnout gear.

“They have a lot of protection, protection equipment in the wrist, but what we've seen with firefighters is there's a lot of exposure to the neck area,” she says.

That’s why firefighters will wear these “dog tags” in the next part of the study, aiming to test if exposures exist to the neck and waist.

Once the samples have been worn and sent back to the lab, researchers extract the chemicals out of the bands to find out what the firefighters were exposed to.

Testing more than 1,500 chemicals, Anderson has found some interesting exposures.

“Most of them, in fact, are chemicals that have never been looked for, for a firefighter exposure,” she says.

Some of them being from personal care products, industrial chemicals and certain carbons.

“There may be ways in which to alter their personal protection equipment, in fact, we can actually test it,” she says.

But, to know the effects of these chemicals depends on the dose, which Anderson hopes to discover from the study.

The University received a $1.5 million grant for this study.

The University in Kansas City will start wearing the “dog tags” within the next few weeks.

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