Sterilized gloves were used in hospitals in 1894 and the first disposable latex based medical gloves were introduced to the world market in 1964 by Ansell Gloves, a company found by Eric Ansell in Melbourne, Australia in 1905.
AIDS and Latex Gloves
In the mid eighties and due to the breakout of the AIDS epidemic, the use of disposable gloves in the medical industry grew rapidly. Latex based gloves products continued their growth in non-medical markets until the mid-nineties when the media started reporting on allergic reactions to latex.
Latex-based products are derived from extracting the sap of the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis. This latex sap is mechanically extracted in commercial settings and chemical preservatives are added during a heating process. The primary additive is ammonia which is believed to increase the rubber’s structural strength.
It is still not fully known if it is the chemical additives, the latex material itself or the combination of both which can lead to latex allergies. Preliminary studies have shown that the allergen which may cause a latex allergy may be from the protein found in the rubber (latex) but more studies must be completed before a definitive answer will be discovered.
Preventing Latex Allergies
If you feel you have a latex based allergy, then avoidance is always the best method for prevention. Even the dust from a latex glove may set off a reaction. There are great latex glove alternatives such as nitrile-based gloves which are found to be more tear resistant. Glove manufacturers and also recently introduced new low latex-protein, powder-free gloves which are shown to have less potential for creating a reaction in an individual which is sensitive to latex.
Here are some additional products which may contain latex:
- Cleaning gloves
- Carpet backing
- Condoms – Diaphragms
- Electricians gloves
- Elasticized fabrics
- Elastic waist bands
- Hot water bottles
- Rubber toys
- Rubber bands
- Shower curtains / mats / & other rubber mats
- Sport racquet handles
- Swim caps/ some goggle straps
- Toy balls
About the Author: Jim Rothingham is a national sales manager for a major manufacturer and supplier of medical supplies to the medical industry.
Latex Allergy, Part 1