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Wristbands given out to test for chemical exposure from Harvey floodwaters

HOUSTON - Wristbands are being used to test for chemical exposure after Hurricane Harvey and are being handed out in several communities across the Houston area.

Researchers from Oregon State University passed out the bands in Highlands this week. The bands will also be used in neighborhoods in Addicks, Baytown and East Houston.

"Never seen this much water before," said James Fretty, who has lived in Highlands since 1943.

He says he wants to do more than just fix his house.

"I decided I needed to find out what chemicals we have over here that's affecting us," said Fretty.

He's wearing one of the wristbands to help researchers understand what people have been exposed to after Harvey.

For years, people who live near the San Jacinto River Waste pits had concerns about contaminated water. Now, they fear what Harvey may have stirred up.

"They need to check it out and see what they can do about it," said Charles Dirdwell, who lost his wife to cancer. "I think she might have gotten her cancer from what was in the water and stuff like that."

"A lot of people wondering what really is causing it, they'd like to know," said Fretty.

That's where the wristbands come in. After wearing them for 7 days, they'll be mailed in for testing. Fretty's eager for answers.

"I hope so, we need some" he said.

Even though it could take a full year to know what Harvey left behind.

"The assessment of an individual's exposure to chemicals in the environment is critical to understanding if and how these exposures may affect human health," said Kim Anderson, PhD, Oregon State University Professor.

"Despite the importance of chemical exposure assessment, there is little information about the frequency and magnitude of personal exposures to many chemicals, especially during disasters." she said.

Baylor College of Medicine is also offering the wristbands to anyone who flooded during Harvey. They'll be passing them out Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Alkek Lobby.

The wristband project is sponsored by Oregon State University, Baylor College Of Medicine, UTHealth, Texas A&M and Texas Health & Environment Alliance.

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