Does Glove Color Matter?

Not so long ago, the presence of color in a disposable glove indicated a latex-free glove. Nitrile exam gloves were usually some shade of blue. Latex gloves were a natural color, and looked like – well, latex.

But not anymore.

Nitrile exam gloves are now available in a rainbow of colors. Nitrile cleanroom gloves come in colors other than the standard white. And latex gloves are available in colors other than “natural.”

While choice is nice, does glove color matter?

Maybe.

Cleanroom Glove Color

In cleanroom and controlled environments, contamination is a constant concern. Contaminants can come from the glove, other materials, and from the workers.

White cleanroom gloves are the industry standard. Contamination is easier to see on a white glove. White also conveys and promotes the “clean” message to workers.

Color is a glove additive, and additives can react with the product or process. For this reason, less color is preferred. This is also true for white cleanroom gloves, as white is also an added color. Some white gloves contain less dye than others, reducing the risk of unwanted reactions.

While white is the industry standard, there are use cases for a colored cleanroom glove. A blue cleanroom glove may provide more contrast, making it easier for workers to do their job well.

Glove Color in the Lab

Laboratories are frequently faced with the possibility of cross-contamination. This can happen when an employee inadvertently transfers substances from one area of the lab to another on their gloved hands.

Assigning a specific glove color to each area of the lab can help. For instance, blue gloves could be used in one area, and white nitrile gloves in another. Wearing different colored gloves provides supervisors and employees a visual cue. This can help prevent costly errors caused by cross-contamination.

Colored Medical Gloves

Health care facilities often prefer a colored nitrile. This helps staff differentiate between latex and non-latex gloves.

A shade of blue is the traditional nitrile color of choice in medical facilities. But in recent years other colors such as gray, purple, and pink have become common.

Glove color can be useful in identifying glove failure. Double gloving, wearing a dark glove underneath a light colored glove, can help reveal punctures and small tears.

A Rainbow of Dental Gloves

Glove manufacturers that focus on the dental industry have marketed a rainbow of colored and scented nitrile and latex gloves.

Some dental offices like to color-coordinate their scrubs and gloves. Other offices prefer to use a dark blue nitrile exam glove to reduce the visibility of blood. For the dental hygienist, glove selection is most often a matter of personal choice.

Because glove color has become an effective marketing and branding tool, we will likely continue to see new exam glove colors. Glove color choice will still be influenced by the industry, purchasing decisions and cost.

What do you think?  Does glove color matter?

Editor’s Note:  This post was originally published on Dec. 13, 2011 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and relevancy.

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Do Your Medical Gloves Pass the Viral Penetration Test?

Do Your Medical Gloves Pass the Viral Penetration Test?

There are millions of types of viruses in the world. Viruses that infect human cells cause diseases ranging from the common cold and chicken pox to hepatitis C, SARS, Ebola and Zika. Healthcare workers, emergency responders and researchers are exposed to these sometimes deadly viruses.  How can they be sure that their personal protective equipment (PPE,) including their medical gloves, will help keep them safe?

No manufacturer can guarantee that their product will eliminate the risk of virus transmission. There are, however, standard tests that help ensure the wearer a high level of protection from viruses.

ASTM F1671

One of these standards is ASTM F1671, Standard Test Method for Resistance of Materials Used in Protective Clothing to Penetration by Blood-Borne Pathogens Using Phi-X174 Bacteriophage Penetration as a Test System.

This test, usually referred to as the Viral Penetration Test, is a pass or fail test designed to show whether the material can protect a wearer from viruses that can be transmitted via blood and body fluids.

Test Procedure

ASTM F1671 Test ChamberTo conduct the test, swatches of the test material are conditioned for 24 hours at a certain temperature and humidity. The samples are then loaded into penetration test cells. Each test cell reservoir is filled with about 60 ml of Phi-X174 Bacteriophage suspension – a surrogate for viruses like HCV, HBV and HIV.

After allowing the fluid to sit for five minutes, air pressure is applied at 2 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) for one minute. After the minute is up, the pressure is released and the sample is allowed to sit for nearly an hour.

Throughout the test, the samples are monitored for fluid penetration. The specimens are then tested with a biologically based assay. Based on test results, the samples pass or fail ASTM F1671.

Virus Protection and Your Gloves

While the FDA does not require this test for medical gloves, the National Fire Protection Association does. NFPA Standard Number 1999 was developed to ensure that protective garments, gloves and facewear that are worn during a medical emergency operation will give a high level of protection from bloodborne pathogens like viruses.

Medical gloves that pass the Viral Penetration Test are considered to be highly protective against bloodborne virus transmission. Both RoyalTouch300 and FreeStyle1100 Nitrile Exam Gloves pass this test. Double gloving can provide added protection.

Resources:

http://www.astm.org/Standards/F1671.htm
https://www.nelsonlabs.com/Test/Viral-Penetration

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Glove Testing Demystified – Tensile Strength and Ultimate Elongation

Glove Testing Demystified - Tensile Strength and Ultimate Elongation

Glove material strength and stretch are important factors in a glove’s quality and performance. Medical and cleanroom gloves undergo testing according to ASTM D412 to meet International standards. This ensures you get a glove that is not prone to tear or fail, and has adequate stretch.

What is ASTM D412?

ASTM D412 is one of over 12,000 standards that operate globally under ASTM International. The current version of the standard is D412-06a(2013) Tensile Properties of Vulcanized Rubber and Thermoplastic Elastomers – Tension.

In this standard, glove material is measured for tensile stress (or tension,) tensile strength, yield point and ultimate elongation.

The Tests

InstromIn Test Method A, a die cut “dumbbell” shaped piece of glove material is stretched from either end by a machine at a constant speed until it breaks. The computer on the machine collects the data as the piece is stretched. Once the piece breaks, the sample’s elongation is measured and recorded.

The test is repeated on samples that have been put through the accelerated aging process in heating chambers according to ASTM D573. This test simulates the glove’s physical properties at the end of its shelf life. This is a “worst case” scenario. Many gloves that have been stored properly, in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, heat and humidity, will have better strength and elongation than the “after aging” test results.

Tensile strength is measured in MPa, or megapascals. The minimum tensile strength for latex exam gloves before aging is 18 MPa, and 14 MPa after aging. The minimum tensile strength for nitrile exam gloves is 14 MPa both before and after aging.

The minimum elongation for latex gloves before aging is 650%, and 500% after aging. Nitrile gloves have a minimum elongation of 500% before aging, and 400% after aging.

Typical Performance vs. ASTM Minimums

Most gloves, however, are manufactured with much higher tensile strength and elongation properties than the ASTM minimums. The typical performance of HandPRO® RoyalTouch300™ Nitrile Exam Gloves during its shelf life, for example, is a tensile strength of 28-32 MPa and an ultimate elongation of 520 – 560%.

HandPRO® Cleanroom gloves are also manufactured to exceed ASTM minimums. HandPRO® Series 9100 Clean Class 100 Nitrile Gloves have a typical tensile strength of 27.1 – 31.0 MPa after aging, and a 540-560% ultimate elongation after aging.

Tensile Strength and Elongation in Use

So what do these numbers mean for you when selecting and wearing gloves?

While high tensile strength is preferred, the “highest” number does not necessarily mean “best” performance. Glove manufacturers must carefully balance strength with stretch and comfort. Too high tensile strength will make a glove stiff or difficult to don.

Elongation is important to the performance of the glove. High elongation helps the glove material stretch instead of tear when snagged. A glove with good elongation will stretch and conform to your hand, improving comfort and performance.

RoyalTouch300 Delivers Optimal Performance and Protection

RoyalTouch300 Nitrile Exam Gloves

We are excited to announce the newest member of the HandPRO® family of nitrile exam gloves – RoyalTouch300™. This powder-free glove features a revolutionary design, providing the optimal performance and protection you desire.

Strength + SensitivityRoyalTouch300 Nitrile Exam Gloves

If you wear gloves, perhaps in a dental or medical office, laboratory or manufacturing environment, you know there is a balance to be struck between tactile sensitivity and durability.

If a nitrile glove material is too thin or brittle, there will be frequent tears, especially at the cuff when donning.  If the glove is too thick, you get durability but sacrifice needed sensitivity.

The RoyalTouch300™ nitrile material hits that “sweet spot” between glove thickness and strength. While being incredibly sensitive, the tensile strength typical performance surpasses the leading comparable glove – 31 MPa compared to 23 MPa. This means fewer tears, less waste and reliable protection.

Request your free sample pack.

Chemical Protection

RoyalTouch300™ is certified with PPE Category III (EN 374:2003 Part 3,) providing unsurpassed film strength and chemical resistance properties among comparable products.

In testing, the glove achieved the highest Performance Level 6 for common chemicals such as 50% sulphuric acid, 40% sodium hydroxide, 50% gluteraldehyde and 10-13% sodium hypochlorite.

Comfort Contour + Finger-Texture

Comfort and functionality are also important. To ensure RoyalTouch300™ lives up to its name, the glove features proper contour design and surface treatment so they go on easy and feel fabulous. Textured fingers provide a secure grip in a wide-variety of environments.

Environmentally-Friendly, Cost-Saving Packaging

Optimal performance doesn’t stop at the glove. Packed flat in a 300-count box that fits in a standard-size glove box holder, the gloves dispense easily to reduce unintended glove waste.

The more efficient packaging minimizes product and shipping costs – an important consideration to everyone ordering gloves today.

Compared to standard 100-count packaging, the environmentally-friendly RoyalTouch300™ packaging design reduces waste by 42% and optimizes storage space by 56%. This means fewer reorders, more space on your shelf for other supplies, and less packaging waste in our landfills.

RoyalTouch300™ delivers a unique and cost-effective combination of strength, protection, comfort, sensitivity, feel and functionality so that you can work with confidence. Truly the Royal Treatment!

[button color=”teal” link=”https://hourglass-intl.com/item/royaltouch300-nitrile-exam-gloves/” size=”default” target=”_self” block=”false”]Request Your FREE Sample Pack Today![/button]

Understanding Glove Related Contact Dermatitis

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou may wear disposable nitrile, latex or vinyl gloves many hours each work day.  If your hands develop dry, itchy, irritated areas or blisters, you are understandably concerned.  Wearing gloves and having healthy skin is imperative in your line of work.

Could your gloves be to blame?  In this Q&A article, we’ll help you get the bottom of the types of glove related contact dermatitis, their causes, and how you might find a resolution for your skin condition.

Q.   What is contact dermatitis?

A.   Occupationally related contact dermatitis is a skin condition that can develop from frequent and repeated use of hand hygiene products, exposure to chemicals and glove use. Contact dermatitis is classified as either irritant or allergic.

Irritant contact dermatitis is common, nonallergic, and develops as dry, itchy, irritated areas on the skin around the area of contact.  It is usually caused by an irritant, such as the chemicals commonly used in the manufacture of hand products and gloves.  It can also be caused by water, (including improper hand drying before donning gloves,) soaps, detergents, solvents, acids, alkalis and friction. Diagnosis is made by reviewing the patient’s medical history, current symptoms, and exclusion of Type IV and Type I hypersensitivity.  This is not an allergic reaction.

Allergic contact dermatitis (type IV hypersensitivity) often manifests as an itchy, red rash, sometimes with small blisters, beginning approximately 6 to 48 hours after contact.  Like irritant dermatitis, it is usually confined to the areas of contact.  It can result from exposure to accelerators and other chemicals used in the manufacture of most latex and non-latex gloves.  Diagnosis is made by reviewing the patient’s medical history, current symptoms and by performing a skin patch test.

Q.   What are chemical “accelerators?”

A.   Chemical accelerators are used in the glove manufacturing process to “accelerate” the linkage of rubber molecules in natural rubber latex or synthetic rubber latex, such as nitrile and vinyl. The chemicals transform the liquid rubber into a thin, strong and elastic glove film, and stabilizes the material.

These sulfur-based chemical accelerators (dithiocarbamates, thiurams and mercaptobenzothiazoles (MBT)) cause the majority of skin dermatitis reactions.

Q.   What are “accelerator-free” gloves?

A.   Accelerator-free gloves, like FreeStyle1100, and Scion700 are manufactured using a breakthrough cross-linking technology that does not use chemical accelerators (dithiocarbamates, thiurams and mercaptobenzothiazoles (MBT.)) The result is a thin, soft and stretchy glove that is actually stronger than traditionally manufactured nitrile glove material.

Q.   What does “Low Dermatitis Potential” mean?

A.   This is an FDA approved claim reserved for gloves that have been tested, and are 1) proven free of chemical accelerator residue, 2) will not induce skin irritation, and 3) will not cause any potential sensitization reaction.

Q.   How long should I try accelerator-free gloves?

A.   Each person is unique. Some individuals know within a few hours, while others require an extended trial of several days or even weeks to know if accelerator-free gloves will resolve their hand dermatitis. (Additional samples of FreeStyle1100 are available for individuals needing a longer period of time to evaluate the glove.)

Q.   Is there anything else in a glove that can cause allergic contact dermatitis?

A.   Yes.  Although 90% of glove allergies are caused by accelerators, the remaining individuals may be reacting to other substances sometimes used in the manufacture of gloves, such as lanolin, polyoxypropyleneglycol (a coagulant,) dyes (organic or inorganic,) quaternary ammonium compounds, and preservatives.

Q.  How important is it to resolve contact dermatitis early?

A.   Skin is an important barrier to bloodborne pathogens and disease. Broken skin due to ongoing irritation or allergy puts an individual at higher risk. A chronic skin condition is painful, and could result in an individual having to abandon their career choice.

Q.  I don’t have contact dermatitis. Should I still consider switching to an accelerator-free glove?

A.   Yes. According to NIOSH, “Because the prognosis of occupational irritant and allergic dermatitis is poor, prevention is imperative. This fact is emphasized by one study showing that 75% of patients with occupational contact dermatitis developed chronic skin disease.” (1) With thousands of potentially harmful chemicals being introduced into the workplace each year, it is important to reduce your exposure wherever possible.

References
NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,) Allergic & Irritant Dermatitis(1)
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Frequently Asked Questions, Contact Dermatitis and Latex Allergy

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5 Good Glove Fit Factors

There are many factors to consider when selecting a disposable glove.  After choosing the right glove type and glove material for the task, good fit ranks high on the list.  A properly fitted glove is critical to performing procedures correctly.   A glove that fits properly conforms to the hand, and does not feel too tight or too stiff.   Consider some glove physical characteristics that influence fit.

1.  Glove Length

Glove length is measured from the tip of the middle finger to the cuff.  Exam gloves are typically a minimum of 9” in length, while surgical gloves and some cleanroom gloves are 12” in length to provide more protection.

2.  Glove Width

The width of a glove is one of the most important considerations for proper glove fit.  Gloves are manufactured to specific ASTM glove standards, including palm width.  But there is a fairly wide range within each size.  A medium exam glove, for instance, can vary from 85mm to 105mm in width.   And there is room for overlap, so one manufacturer’s “medium” exam glove could be another manufacturer’s “large” glove.

3.  Finger Length and Width

Finger lengths and widths also vary between product lines from one manufacturer to another.  The finger length and width is largely determined by the formers used on the manufacturing line.  However, the glove material affects the amount of stretch, which affects finger fit.  A super stretchy, low protein latex glove works with the widest range of finger sizes, and could be a good choice for individuals with shorter fingers.  When it comes to nitrile gloves, the formulations range from “some stretch” to “very stretchy,” which affects finger fit.

4.  Glove Material

Glove thickness and stretchability also influences overall glove fit when donned.  If you are accustomed to wearing a “medium” glove in one brand, you may need to try a “small” or a “large” glove in another brand.  If you are trying a very thin glove, you may need to try a smaller size in order to get the proper fit.

5.  Finger Contour

Hand specific gloves with contoured fingers and a natural thumb position are most commonly found in surgical glove lines.  While offering the best fit, these gloves cost more than an examination glove.  Fortunately, ambidextrous nitrile exam gloves (gloves that can be worn on the left or right hand) made from newer, thinner nitrile material, allows the glove to warm and follow the contours of the hand, fingers and thumb to enhance comfort, improve tactile sensitivity, and reduce hand fatigue.

Finding a good fitting glove is essential.  A tight fitting glove can negatively affect fine motor skills, irritate the skin, and lead to hand fatigue.  On the other hand, a glove that fits too loose can cause a person to execute movements awkwardly, and potentially lead to exposure to bloodborne pathogens or hazardous chemicals.  Evaluating a glove’s ability to contour to the hand, and properly fit the width of the hand is key to finding a good fitting glove that you will enjoy wearing.

[note]Each of our HandPRO Exam Gloves offers a unique fit and stretch due to their different compounds.
Click on the glove below to request your sample pack:

AirSoft900 Nitrile Exam Gloves
Cirrus800 White Nitrile Exam Gloves
FreeStyle1100 Nitrile Exam Gloves with Low Dermatitis Potential
HandPRO 400 Latex Exam Gloves[/note]

Exam Gloves “Manufactured in Malaysia” – How Safe?

How safe are exam gloves manufactured in Malaysia?

Most of the exam gloves available here in the U.S. are manufactured and imported from other countries, such as Malaysia.  How can you be sure that you are getting a safe, reliable product?  Fortunately, manufacturers, importers and the government are working hard to ensure your safety.

FDA Regulation

Patient examination gloves are a class I medical device and subject to the controls of the FDA.  This class of disposable gloves is meant for medical purposes to protect the wearer’s hand and to prevent contamination between the patient and the wearer.   The gloves can be made from latex, vinyl or a polymer other than vinyl, such as nitrile or polyurethane.

To meet the FDA requirements for patient examination gloves, the product must meet a number of standards, including the following:

ASTM D5151 Standard Test Method for Detection of Holes in Medical Gloves
ASTM D6319 Standard Specification for Nitrile Examination Gloves for Medical Application
ASTM D6124 Standard Test Method for Residual Powder on Medical Gloves
ASTM D3578 Standard Test Method for Rubber Examination Gloves

Additionally, there are specific rules for labeling.  A powder-free nitrile exam glove that meets FDA requirements will have the words “powder-free nitrile examination glove” on the box.   Disposable latex, nitrile or vinyl gloves that do not include the word “examination” on the box are for general purpose use, and are not safe to use in medical, dental or other health care settings.

Ambiguous terms such as “extra-thick” or “super-sensitive” are not allowed on the box because they could be misleading.  The term “hypoallergenic” is strongly discouraged, as it cannot be scientifically defined.  Only factual and definitive statements are allowed.

Quality System Regulation

Medical glove manufacturers are required to meet the Quality System regulation for medical devices – 21 CFR part 820.  This regulation states that “each manufacturer must establish and maintain a quality system that is appropriate for the specific medical device . . . manufactured.”

Malaysian manufacturers run state-of-the-art facilities.  There are process controls for every single stage of manufacturing, from compounding , dipping and curing, to drying, powder removal and rinsing.  With proper process and quality controls, manufacturers are able to control or eliminate defects in gloves, such as pinholes, as well as control or minimize undesirable chemical residues.

Compliance Inspections

To ensure compliance, the FDA sends auditors to manufacturers, including foreign manufacturing sites, to perform factory inspections.  They review the facility, operations, environment and records to determine the level of compliance with the Quality System regulation.

When a glove shipment arrives at a US port, the FDA may hold the shipment and collect a sample of the gloves for testing.  If the sample fails, the FDA then detains all lots of the same glove type in the shipment, effectively removing them from the supply chain.  They may also hold shipments of gloves that have been misbranded with unsubstantiated claims, or are not labeled properly.

The relationship between glove manufacturers, importers and the FDA helps ensure that the exam gloves you wear will do the job they were meant to do – prevent contamination and keep you safe.  So the next time you see “Manufactured in Malaysia” on a box of gloves or product literature, you can be confident you are getting a quality product.

Share your comments below.

Gloves, Handrubs and HAIs in the Dental Setting

staphylococcus aureus in the dental setting

Health care associated infections, or HAIs, can be acquired anywhere health care is delivered, including the dental office.  As a dental clinician or dentist, you know that proper hand hygiene and gloving is essential to your patient’s safety as well as your own.

But how prevalent are infectious agents such as bacteria, fungi and viruses in the dental setting?  And is your current hand hygiene routine enough to prevent HAIs?

Dental Staph

A recent study conducted by the Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases at Sapienza University, in Rome, Italy, investigated staphylococci contamination on disposable gloves and clinical surfaces in the dental setting.

Environmental samples were collected from the tray and gloved dominant hand soon after dental therapy of the second or third patient at 136 general dental practitioners’ offices.  Staphylococci were detected in 41% of the trays and 57% of the gloves.  Specifically, S. aureus was found in 5% of both tray and glove samples, and MRSA was detected on 1.5% of the glove and tray samples.

The study concluded that contact surfaces and gloves in the dental setting are “frequently contaminated.”

Studies like this underscore the importance of proper hand hygiene and proper donning and doffing of exam gloves.  But even if you are using the manufacturer’s recommended amount of alcohol-based handrub, another recent study warns that it may not be enough.

Pump Up the Volume

The Bode Science Center in Hamburg, Germany evaluated the effectiveness of different volumes of alcohol-based handrubs.  They used the manufacturer recommended product volumes of 1.1 mL, 2 mL, and 2.4 mL, as well as 1 and 2 pump dispenser pushes for foams and gels.

They discovered that 70% ethanol (v/v) handrubs at the recommended volume of 1.1 mL per application “did not ensure complete coverage of both hands and do not achieve current ASTM efficacy standards.”  Whereas an application of 2 mL of 85% w/w ethanol rub reduces contamination sufficiently to fulfill the US FDA efficacy requirement.

Proper Gloving and Handrub Guidelines

To provide the safest environment possible for yourself and your patients, diligently follow proper gloving and hand hygiene guidelines to reduce HAIs.  This includes handwashing or handrubbing before donning gloves, and immediately after careful removal of gloves.  And when using an alcohol-based handrub, use enough to completely cover all surfaces of your hands.

Share Your Experience – How is your office’s hand hygiene compliance?  What have you done to improve it?  Post your comments below.

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The Latest on Latex Glove-Related Allergy

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]o reduce the risk of latex sensitization among healthcare workers, medical facilities in the U.S. and Europe have transitioned the majority of their glove usage from powdered latex gloves to powder-free nitrile and other synthetic gloves.   Additionally, a growing understanding of what led to the dramatic increase in latex allergy has resulted in changes to modern latex glove manufacturing to further reduce the risk – lowering the latex protein content, and eliminating cornstarch powder.

Have these changes lowered the risk of latex sensitization in healthcare workers?   Recent studies in Italy, China and Thailand shed some light.

A 10-year follow-up study of over 2000 healthcare workers in Trieste Hospitals in Italy was published in the May 2013 issue of International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health.  The individuals represented 9,660 person-years of non-powdered latex glove use from 2000 to 2009.  The incidence of latex sensitization was 1 case per 1,000 person-years.  The researchers concluded that the rate of latex sensitization and latex-related symptoms was very low, “but subjects with allergic symptoms related to common allergens are at higher risk.” Non-latex gloves were suggested for these individuals.

In mainland China, powdered, natural rubber latex glove use is still widespread.  To learn the prevalence and risk factors for latex glove allergy among clinical nurses there, information was collected from over 8000 female nurses in 35 hospitals in eight provinces.  Almost 9% of the nurses surveyed had latex allergy.  The study concluded that Chinese nurses are at high risk for latex sensitization, and that “low-protein, powder-free natural rubber latex gloves, or latex-free gloves should be widely adopted in China.”

A cross-sectional study of female nurses in Thailand also demonstrated the higher risk of latex allergy associated with powdered latex gloves.  “Of 899 nurses, 18% reported health effects attributed to the use of latex products,” states the study.  It concluded that when compared to data from developed countries, the continued use of powdered latex gloves in developing countries is associated with increased prevalence of latex allergy dermal symptoms.

Clearly, regular use of powdered latex gloves with uncontrolled levels of latex proteins puts individuals at much greater risk for developing latex allergy, while modern, low-protein, powder-free latex gloves and powder-free nitrile gloves are a safer choice.

Have an opinion on powder-free latex gloves?  We’d love to hear from you.  Post your comments below.

Request Samples of HandPRO 400 Low Protein Latex Gloves

 

Green Trends in Dental, Medical and Cleanroom

Green Trends 2013

Dedicated professionals in many industries, from dental and medical to cleanroom manufacturing, have been working to establish company cultures that put the health and safety of their staff and the environment at the forefront.  This includes adopting and promoting “green” technology, products and initiatives that contribute to a healthier world and workforce.

Green Dentistry

According to the Eco-Dentistry Association, green dentistry means reducing waste and pollution, saving water, energy and money, going high-tech and supporting healthy lifestyles.

Here in the U.S. upwards of 1.7 billion sterilization pouches and 680 million patient barriers are dumped by dental offices each year.  Green practices in the dental office include replacing chemical-based and toxic cold-sterilization with steam sterilization methods using FDA-registered reusable pouches and wraps.  Switching to cloth lab coats and reusable cloth patient barriers also helps cut down on waste.

About half of all mercury entering wastewater treatment facilities comes from dental offices.  Installing an amalgam separator in the office can keep mercury out of our drinking water, irrigation and fishing waters.   By switching to digital imaging, other toxins can be eliminated, such as traditional x-ray fixing chemicals and lead foils.

If a product must be disposable because of its nature, such as gauze, gloves and depression trays, these products are increasingly available in recycled or high-count packaging, or are made from biodegradable, compostable material.

Environmentally Friendly Medical

Medical facilities are committed to improving the health of their patients, employees and communities.  Leading the way, Kaiser Permanente launched their Sustainability Scorecard in 2010, a first of its kind green purchasing model.  The Scorecard helps them evaluate the environmental and health impacts of the more than $1 billion in medical products they purchase each year, as well as the companies they purchase them from.

Another major focus in the medical industry is recycling and reprocessing devices for safe reuse.  Hospitals are the second-largest waste producers in the U.S. after the food industry.  Banner Health in Phoenix saved nearly 1.5 million over 12 months by reprocessing operating room supplies such as compression sleeves and open but unused devices.

Manufacturers and suppliers are helping reduce waste by streamlining packaging.  At University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, surgical kits were reviewed.  They found that the operating room packs contained supplies that were never used (and tossed.)  One chemotherapy kit contained 44 items, but only 27 were needed.  By having their supplier change the kit components and swap disposable gowns and linens for reusable ones, they trimmed a pound of trash and$50 in supply costs per procedure.  Hundreds and thousands of procedures later, and it adds up to a whole lot of green – less waste and money saved.

Greening the Cleanroom

Professionals in cleanroom manufacturing industries are greening their workplaces as well.  As with the dental and medical industries, the focus is on waste and energy conservation, as well as products “friendlier” to workers and the environment.

One of the greatest challenges is reducing energy consumption.  The larger the facility, the more energy it uses. “Cleanrooms aren’t very efficient,” says manager Bill Bond, of QinetiQ North America, a contractor that operates cleanroom facilities for Goddard.  “Airflow is always moving, and that takes energy.”

But his team was able to create an energy efficient design that includes computer-controlled sensing systems for lights and particulate counts.  When the particle count reaches higher levels, the fans operate at higher speeds.  Other efficiencies are created by treating just 10 percent of the air to maintain required air conditions, since the other 90 percent is already-filtered air that the system is recycling.

Modern modular cleanrooms feature coved surfaces and smooth transitions, making them easier to clean.  Manufacturers have responded by redesigning wipers and mops to be reusable or use less cleaning solution or solvent.  This is better for the environment as it minimizes the amount of chemicals needed to maintain cleanliness and sterility.

When it comes to clothing and PPE, cleanrooms are working hard to reduce waste and keep their operators safe and healthy.  Rather than toss items like shoe covers and gowns after the first use, many facilities reuse these items as much their critical environment will allow for while still maintaining cleanliness.  When it does come time to dispose of protective clothing, much of it is recycled.  Products like accelerator-free cleanroom nitrile gloves are also a greener choice.  Formulated with fewer chemicals and weighing on average 20% less than older generations of gloves, they are less likely to cause dermatitis in operators and reduce waste.

As technology continues to evolve, and creative and forward thinking individuals continue to spearhead green initiatives, no doubt newer and more environmentally friendly products, processes and facility designs will emerge.

How is your office or facility going green?  Share your comments below.

NOTICE: Beware of large offers of gloves through unauthorized distributors. Email us at request@hourglass-intl.com for verification.