Famous athletes and celebrities promoting charities made silicone wristbands cool more than a decade ago. Now, scientists have developed another use for the colorful, comfortable bands: figuring out what chemicals people are exposed to on a daily basis.
The cover article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, reports how these trendy accessories could already be helping people.
Britt Erickson, a senior editor at C&EN, notes that environmental scientists have long been testing for organic chemicals in the air, water and soil to try to determine whether they might cause harm. Using various tools from air monitors to hand wipes, they’ve measured pesticides and other contaminants in the environment, in homes and in people’s urine. But these methods can be expensive, difficult for subjects to comply with and don’t detect all the compounds individuals are exposed to.
Dramatic increases in exposure to toxic chemicals in the last four decades are threatening human reproduction and health, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the first global reproductive health organization to take a stand on human exposure to toxic chemicals.
According to Di Renzo, reproductive health professionals “Witness first-hand the increasing numbers of health problems facing their patients, and preventing exposure to toxic chemicals can reduce this burden on women, children and families around the world.” Miscarriage and still birth, impaired fetal growth, congenital malformations, impaired or reduced neurodevelopment and cognitive function, and an increase in cancer, attention problems, ADHD behaviors and hyperactivity are among the list of poor health outcomes linked to chemicals such as pesticides, air pollutants, plastics, solvents and more, according to the FIGO opinion.
“What FIGO is saying is that physicians need to do more than simply advise patients about the health risks of chemical exposure,” said Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, a co-author of the FIGO opinion and past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which issued an opinion on chemicals and reproductive health in 2013.
“Given accumulating evidence of adverse health impacts related to toxic chemicals, including the potential for inter-generational harm, FIGO has wisely proposed a series of recommendations that health professionals can adopt to reduce the burden of unsafe chemicals on patients and communities,” said FIGO President Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, MBBS, who is also past president of the British Medical Association.