Hazardous-waste workers and firefighters face a similar foe: Inside their suits, body heat builds up, and natural cooling mechanisms can shut down. Heat-stress symptoms range from cramps to nausea, confusion, and coma. So Larry Berk-bigler, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, has invented a one-pound monitor that measures skin temperature and heart rate. A light flashes inside the visor of a worker whose body temperature climbs too high. Meanwhile, radio waves send temperature and heart-rate data to a monitoring station up to a quarter mile away, where a supervisor logs the data on a personal computer.
Los Alamos is seeking a company to bring the system to market. It will soon test the units with its own chemical-spill cleanup team and with outside fire departments. The estimated cost to manufacture the system: approximately $500 per transmitter and $7,000 per monitoring station.