Wristbands provide window into chemical exposure following Harvey

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Pamela Johnson tells an all too familiar story about trying to protect herself while cleaning her mother's flood-damaged northeast Houston home.

"I put gloves on. We put on masks; we put on things to cover your feet, too," said Johnson.

She has never met Baylor College of Medicine researcher, Dr. Melissa Bondy, but they share the same concern about the cleanup following Hurricane Harvey. No one is sure about what chemicals individuals might have been exposed to in floodwaters and during the cleanup.

Dr. Bondy is one of the researchers using simple silicone wristbands to test exposure to chemicals. Study participants wear the wristbands for a week.

"You don't take it off," Bondy told Eyewitness News. "It picks up about 1,500 chemicals."

There are about 200 participants all over the region, like Dean Edwards, who lives in Bellaire.

"We lived there (at home) the whole time. We lived upstairs so we've been exposed to the worst part of the cleanup and now we're living in it," said Edwards.

Testing of the wristbands will happen through Oregon State University. However, study participants also complete a questionnaire, and give samples, like nasal swabs, to test exposure to bacteria and mold. Researchers hope to keep testing over several months.

"If we don't study it you'll never know, so what I'm say is that we need to be in there quickly," said Bondy. "To see what's happening and going to happen in the future."

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