As mentioned in last week’s blog, after coming back from a conference I had something up my sleeve. Summer is a time for fairs, water parks and many other outdoor events. As a way to easily identify those who have paid for admittance to special areas of parks or have unlimited ride access, wrist bands are commonly used. They can be any colour under the sun. They are generally made of a plastic-papery type material, have an adhesive or other self-closing mechanism to keep the band in place. I’ve never really thought much of them. They’re on for a day and then they’re off. Even during any hospital stays, I’ve never really thought much of the bands that are placed on me or a loved one. They provide our identification, they have crucial information that for some may even be lifesaving.
Last week however, at one of the largest international beauty shows in Vegas where the temperature outside was well into the 90’s we were given a wrist band made of a very nice silky ribbon and told that it had to stay on at all times and if we lost it we would have to pay $75 to replace. After having lunch with the thing on and seeing firsthand the darn thing slipping into the salsa we were eating it occurred to me that this was gross! I don’t wear any piece of clothing constantly for 4 days. I was curious how gross the bands could get!
Thanks to our R&D team who is as curious about these type of things as I am, I grabbed the wristbands of my colleagues and some of the other vendors. I was also able to sweet talk my way into getting a “new” wristband without having to pay. I will admit, the lady was looking at me oddly when I explained what I wanted to do, but she played along to my geekiness!
We looked at the bacterial contamination of the wristbands by testing them both qualitatively and quantitatively to determine their level of contamination. From the pictures below, I hope you’ll agree that the results are pretty cool! The first picture is what they looked like from placing a piece of the band on a growth media to see what would grow. The second image is what we found after sonicating the bands in a buffer solution, incubating and then doing a colony count.
For full disclosure, the ‘control’ band was shipped in a Ziploc that previously held candies (Skittles to be exact), so it was “as gross as the used bands”. To my defense, that was the only bag I had on me when I got the band and was scared I would lose it…. I definitely need to improve my sample collection “skills”.
Thankfully we do not know who Band #2 belongs to, but definitely, their level of hygiene, or what they get up to with their hands and wrists is different from the owners of Band #1 and #3! We can’t really draw any conclusions, but what it does highlight is that we can easily pick up “bugs” as we go about our day to day business. It would also appear that some are better at picking up “bugs” than others. Is this enough to put me in a non-wristband wearing bubble? NO! That said, it does remind me of the importance of cleaning my hands frequently throughout the day and especially before I eat!