The rubber band can serve countless purposes. Among them, it once was a tool to help understand the air we breathe.
The humble office supply was once used as an informal method of measuring ground-level ozone pollution.
In the early days of air pollution control, testing air quality was a long and laborious process. It often required several days to test a sample and get a measurement of pollutants. The burdensome process didn’t let people know just how bad the air was in real time.
Eventually, an unofficial testing methodology for ground-level ozone arose. An engineer would open a new bag of rubber bands, open the window and leave a few on the windowsill for a couple of hours. They’d later examine the condition of the rubber bands and get a rough idea of the ozone concentration based upon the deterioration. It wasn’t an exact science, but it did give an indication.
Next time you see a rubber band, you’re not seeing merely a rubber band. It’s an old-fashioned, personal, portable ozone monitor!