Powdered and Latex Medical Gloves to Be Banned?

Posted by Stephanie - June 23, 2011 - FDA, Latex Gloves, Medical Gloves, Nitrile Gloves - 3 Comments
FDA ban2

Almost everyone in the glove industry heard the news back in April. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, petitioned the FDA to take drastic steps to protect individuals with latex allergies. They called for a complete ban on all cornstarch powdered medical gloves, as well as a ban on all natural latex rubber medical gloves.

This is the second petition by Public Citizen to ban cornstarch powdered gloves. Over a decade ago, the FDA rejected their petition, citing that a ban would not address exposure to natural latex allergens from medical gloves with high levels of natural latex proteins. They also felt that a ban might compromise the availability of high quality medical gloves and greatly increase the annual costs.

In this new petition, Public Citizen addresses each of the FDA’s prior reasons for not banning cornstarch powdered gloves. They agreed with the FDA’s 1999 conclusion that simply banning cornstarch powder from latex gloves would not address the serious risk to patients and healthcare workers already allergic to latex. So in this new petition, they call for a ban on all latex medical gloves, powdered or not.

But will the FDA really ban all latex medical gloves?

Not if Malaysia manufacturers and many glove users in the U.S. have anything to say about it. Malaysia is the largest exporter and producer of rubber gloves, supplying 60-65% of the global supply. Ninety percent of the glove makers’ output is medical and examination grade gloves. So even as they scramble to transition more of their production from latex gloves to nitrile gloves due to skyrocketing natural rubber latex raw material costs, they continue working hard to protect the strong base of latex gloves in demand here in the US.

Based on market demand, we can see powdered gloves disappearing. But there will likely still be a large place in the market for low-protein powder-free latex medical gloves, especially where fine finger dexterity is critical and it is known that the patient and healthcare workers involved do not have a latex allergy. There have been significant improvements in nitrile glove material, making them comparable to latex when tested for puncture resistance and gross dexterity. But when it comes to fine finger dexterity, latex is still king. Some surgeons will likely still demand powder-free latex surgical gloves. And until studies show that even low-protein latex gloves can lead to latex allergy, there will be boxes of powder free latex medical gloves on hospital shelves.

The FDA is expected to respond to Public Citizen’s petition in the coming weeks. Then we’ll all know if latex medical gloves will be regulated out of existence by the government.

What do you think?  Will the FDA ban powdered medical gloves, as well as all latex medical gloves?  Should they?

3 comments

  • Michelle Parish says:

    I have been in the dental field for 21 years, since I was 16 years old. I was diagnosed 4 years ago with a Type 1 Hypersensitivity to latex. Although I was an assistant for many years, I was at that time working the front office as a financial manager. When I was diagnosed, it explained a lot of health issues I was having: extreme sinus headaches, burning and itching eyes, increased usage of my rescue inhaler, and dry skin patches, rashes, and hives. I was extremely frustrated when the back office staff would come up front with latex gloves on, handing me charts and x-rays with their powdered hands, and using things on my desk. In 2009, I became pregnant and my latex allergy even became more of a danger. When I was 6 months pregnant, I was given a choice by my allergist: quit or tell the dentist to go latex-free. She sent me off with a note personally for him. When I gave him the note, he never sat down with the staff and refused to go latex-free. Two hours later, I was handed an x-ray with powder on it. This is difficult for me because this was my career. I have started a dental consulting company, and I cannot be in an office for longer than a few hours and I have a reaction, which is getting worse. Dentists need to understand the severity of this and be better educated about this allergy! All latex should be banned!

    • Stephanie says:

      Michelle,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. It clearly demonstrates the need for more latex allergy education. With so many non-latex glove choices, surely there is a latex-free glove option for everyone.

  • Richard Edlich says:

    It’s important to read a copy of my new book “Deadly Powder on Medical Gloves–a Wake-up Call to the FDA”, published by IUniverse. In September, 2008, I and eleven other health care professionals submitted a Citizen Petition to the FDA to ban cornstarch powder on medical gloves. Scientific studies have documented that the deadly powder on gloves absorbs the latex allergen and promotes deadly latex allergies. In addition, the deadly powder will damage the wound defenses and promote wound infection, and can cause the development of intestinal adhesions in the abdominal cavity that lead to intestinal obstruction, requiring surgery to divide the adhesions that compress the intestine and bowels. Studies have demonstrated that the deadly powder on surgical gloves can promote the spread of tumor cells. Because of the dangers of the deadly powder on medical gloves, it has been banned in Germany and the United Kingdom for over 10 years! After you read the book, I would encourage you to contact the Division of Devices and Radiological Health of the FDA to encourage them to ban the use of the deadly cornstarch powder on medical gloves!!! There is a wide supply of inexpensive, powder-free medical gloves that can be used in hospitals and dental clinics that do not endanger the patient or interfere with manual performance of the health care workers, including the surgeons. Even the manufacturers of powdered gloves, such as Ansell Cares has a superb poster that describes 10 Good Reasons to use Powder Free Gloves. Please join us in awakening the Food and Drug Administration in banning the deadly powder from medical and surgical gloves. If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact me at 360-944-7641.

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