Optical brightener (OB) sampling using tampons is a low-cost method to detect the presence of human sewage contamination in stormwater infrastructure systems and natural waterways. OBs are chemicals added to laundry detergents and other brightening agents and can be found in nearly all human wastewaters. “Tampling” (tampon + sampling) can serve as an early warning system for wastewater leaks by mobilizing community scientists to collect OB data on their own waterways.
What started out as a lab activity for students to conduct hands-on water quality monitoring without the expense and time of traditional kits has grown into a citizen science phenomenon. Now with an online public data collection system, standards-aligned curriculum, a growing number of success stories, plus a complete Tampling Citizen Science Field Guide and Online Community Hub coming soon, Tampling is making water quality monitoring more accessible than ever.
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