The following are questions frequently asked about the FSES Program's silicone wristbands. Our Technical Attributes page provides in-depth information about the capabilities of our wristband technology.
Q: What kind of chemicals do the wristbands sample?
A:
  • The wristbands work for organic chemicals, such as flame retardants, PCBs, pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and organic chemicals in consumer products like fragrances and phthalates (chemicals released from plastics). The wristbands do not sample metals, like cadmium, chromium or lead. The wristbands do not sample inorganic gases like sulfur dioxide.  The wristbands do not sample mold or mildew or radiation.
  • For a full list of chemicals that our lab is able to detect in wristbands, visit our analytical methods page.
Q: What are your wristbands made of?
A:

The wristbands are made of silicone, and are generally like the silicone wristbands often sold by charity groups to raise awareness for a cause. However, the wristbands go through a rigorous cleaning process to remove contaminants from the manufacturing process so they are suitable as trace chemical samplers.

Q: How do I wear the wristband? Do I need to do anything special?
A:

You wear the wristband like you wear a bracelet. It can be worn outside, in the shower, while cooking food, sleeping, etc. We do ask that you avoid applying lotion or personal care products directly onto the wristband. Watch our video “The Passive Sampling Wristband” to learn more.

Q: What happens if I drop it?
A:

Pick it up and put it back on!  Note on your form any direct spills or drops onto wristband.

Q: Can I wear the wristband at work?
A:

Yes! The wristband can detect both indoor and outdoor environmental air quality.

Q: I damaged my wristband, what should I do?
A:

Depending on the damage (small tear, etc.), you may still be able to wear it without harming the ability of the wristband to sequester chemicals. Give your study coordinator a call and they will be able to advise you.

Q: How long will I wear the wristband?
A:

The wristband is sensitive enough to detect measurable levels of chemicals in a few hours. You can also wear the wristband for an entire week (or longer) to get an average estimate of chemical exposures. The specific duration will vary from study to study. Please contact your study coordinator if you have questions. 

Q: Because of my work I have to wear gloves/long sleeves or shirts. Can I wear my wristband in a place other than my wrist? (Ankle, attached to my clothing, carry it in my pocket, etc.)
A:

For the wristband to work best, the more access to the environmental air the better.  If your work requires long sleeves/gloves that cover up the wristband, consider wearing the wristband on the outside of your gloves, or it can be pinned to your shirt during work hours.  We do have a lapel configuration. If you wear your wristband underneath your gloves or shirt please note that with your study coordinator.

Q: Does the color matter, can I get a different color?
A:

The color does not matter. Currently we have many colors (including: solid orange, solid orange-and-white, swirled orange-and-white, green, pink, black, red-and-blue).

Q: How are wristbands analyzed after they have been worn?
A:

For general information, watch our video “Behind the Scenes: Analyzing the Passive Wristband Sampler” to learn more. 

Q: Can the samplers “fill up” with chemicals? Does it have a limit on how much it can sample?
A:

We call this ‘equilibrium.’ Yes, some chemicals will reach equilibrium with the environment, they will represent the estimated average concentration of the chemical over the time worn.  This is the case for small very volatile chemicals like naphthalene.  We have tested the samplers in highly contaminated environments for many days, and did not see evidence of saturation for large organic chemicals, for example pyrene.  Even at equilibrium, the sampler will be able to detect changes in the chemical concentration, and will accurately reflect the average concentrations over the period worn.

Q: Can you detect pollutants coming from natural gas activities and infrastructure (fracking)?
A:

Yes. Volatile chemicals like xylene and n-undecane can be determined.  Also semi-volatile chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are associated with unconventional natural gas drilling, and we have used our samplers to detect these chemicals. 

Q: Can you detect urban pollutants like vehicle exhaust, smog, etc.?
A:

Yes. Vehicle exhaust contains many different chemicals and is known to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which the passive samplers detect. Watch our video “The Passive Sampling Wristband” to learn more. 

Q: Can you detect household concerns like mold, mildew, radon, lead, and carbon monoxide?
A:

The passive samplers cannot detect mold, mildew, radon, lead or carbon monoxide. 

Q: Can you detect agricultural pollutants like pesticides, fertilizers, and smoke from field burning?
A:

Yes, we can detect certain pesticides and organic chemical fertilizers, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the smoke from field burning.

Q: What are your detection limits like? (How low can you go?)
A:

We can detect chemical concentrations as low as 1 part per trillion (ppt) in the air. To put that in perspective, imagine the entire state of Indiana was covered in kitchen tile and each tile was 1 square foot. Imagine all those squares are orange, but one square is black. That is 1 part per trillion. We can detect higher concentrations as well, like parts per billion (ppb) and parts per million (ppm).

Q: How do you detect what the band has collected?
A:

We either remove chemicals from the wristbands using heat (thermal desorption) or soak the wristbands in solvent to capture the chemicals; we call these processes “extracting” the wristband. After extraction, we use an instrument call a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC-MS) to measure the chemicals. Here's an animation that explains how GC-MS works.

Q: What are the chemicals of interest to your researchers?
A:

We are primarily interested in all organic chemicals that may adversely affect our environment or health.  One group of chemicals is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are contaminants of concern at many polluted sites like Superfund sites. PAHs are also associated with urban pollution, from cars and coal burning, as well as crude oil spills and other petroleum operations.  Some PAHs are known or thought to cause cancer, while other PAHs are associated with other respiratory and health issues.  For example, phenanthrene is a PAH known to adversely affect lung function. Learn more about the chemicals we can evaluate, such as pesticides and flame retardants