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Latex Sensitisation - Powdered Latex Rubber Gloves

Many countries, including the United Kingdom, have experienced an increase in reports of latex sensitisation due to general exposure to latex in the form of medical and non-medical products.

Concerns with regard to infection control have led to increased use of barriers against infection, with latex gloves often offering the primary protection.

As the usage of latex products has risen, the emergence of latex sensitisation has been recognised as a problem for some individuals, who may present with a broad range of allergic reactions to the latex.

Latex allergy can present as a serious occupational hazard for those who have to wear latex gloves as personal protection at work. Exposure to latex rubber products may produce a wide range of allergic responses, either to the latex protein in the gloves or to the chemicals used in their manufacture. Research has shown that powdered latex gloves can create additional health hazards, as latex protein from the gloves gets absorbed into the powder, resulting in latex protein exposures fifty times higher than non-powdered gloves.

The risks to health with powdered latex gloves are that they:

  • could have a detrimental effect directly on skin, which may in turn lead to the development of mild to extreme sensitivity/allergy.
  • may become an airborne hazard due to the dispersal of latex powder aerosols on glove removal which, if inhaled, could result in respiratory sensitisation/ill health to both the wearer and/or to others near by.

Recommended actions to take to reduce the risk of latex allergy

  • Assess whether there is a need to use latex gloves at all.  There is now a wide range of alternative products to latex available from glove manufacturers. If latex gloves have to be used as protection for whatever reason it is strongly advised that only powder-free gloves should be worn.
  • Purchasers of latex gloves should ensure that the gloves carry a CE mark, thus ensuring that the product complies with the provisions of the Medical Devices Directive (93/42/EEC). As yet no definitive guidance can be provided to purchasers on what extractable protein levels can be regarded as safe. However latex glove manufacturers are generally reducing the amount of extractable protein residues and a level of 50 ug/g protein level or less should be available from most glove manufacturers.
  • After using latex gloves wash hands with a mild soap, then rinse thoroughly and dry.
  • If you develop any signs of latex sensitivity, e.g. skin rash/itch, swelling, runny nose, respiratory wheeze, contact the Occupational Health Unit on Ext. 2752 immedately.

Contact

Environmental Health and Safety Services contact details

University of St Andrews
Bute Building Queens Terrace
St Andrews
Fife
KY16 9TS
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1334 462750
Fax:44 (0)1334 462747