Tips to Avoid Contact Dermatitis This Winter

Tips to Avoid Contact Dermatitis This Winter

The winter season is here.  That means colds and flu, and overly-drying, heated air in our homes and workplaces.  Add necessary frequent hand washing to this combo and you may end up with a very uncomfortable situation – contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis can be divided into two categories – irritant and allergic.  Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common type.  It can be as mild as a rash, or as debilitating as dry, itchy skin that can crack and bleed.  It occurs because the outer layer of your skin has been damaged.  Most often, this is due to harsh soaps and damaging chemical solvents.  Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when an allergen triggers an immune response in your skin.  It shows up as a red rash, with bumps and sometimes blisters.  It can be caused by natural rubber, the sulfur-based chemical accelerators used in the production of many non-latex gloves, as well as perfumes, cosmetics and hair dyes.

A Pricey Problem

Dermatitis is a widespread problem.  Up to 35 percent of all occupational diseases are skin diseases, with contact dermatitis making up the majority of the cases.  In 2005, The Society for Investigative Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology reported that contact dermatitis was associated with more than 9 million physician office visits resulting in more than $1.4 billion spent on treatment.

Because of increased exposure to chemicals, detergents and frequent hand washing, workers in health care, construction, food service and cleaning are especially vulnerable.  Individuals with a history of eczema, latex allergy, prone to sunburn, and repeated exposure to water should be especially careful in order to avoid dermatitis.

What You Can Do

To avoid occupational contact dermatitis, carefully take stock of your environment and habits:

Health Care Workers  –   After washing with soap and water, are you drying your hands gently, so that you do not cause unnecessary damage to your skin?  If you are starting to notice a rash, has your facility recently changed to a new brand of hand soap?  Your skin may be irritated by a chemical in the new product.   Because alcohol-based hand rubs do not cause dermatitis, the CDC recommends they be used whenever possible in health care settings.  These foams and gels often contain emollients and substantially reduce skin irritation and dryness.

Industrial / Cleaning / Food Service Workers – What chemicals, oils and cleaning agents do your hands come into contact with?  Are you wearing the right glove material (nitrile vs. latex) to protect your hands from that irritant?  Are you around wet cement, cement dust or paper dust?  These irritants can also cause dermatitis.  Make sure you are wearing disposable gloves to protect your hands.   If your hands do come into contact with cement or chemicals, wash your hands immediately with a fragrance-free, neutral pH hand soap with emollients, and gently dry your hands without excessive rubbing.  (Alcohol-based hand rubs are not recommended for food service workers, as its effectiveness is reduced when in the presence of food proteins.)

You will likely experience dry hands this winter.  The cold air and wind chaps your hands, and the low humidity level further removes moisture from your skin.  By paying careful attention to how you wash and dry your hands, and protect your skin from harsh detergents and chemicals, you can greatly reduce your chances of developing painful contact dermatitis.

Could your gloves be the problem?

Try FreeStyle1100 and Scion700 Nitrile Exam Gloves with “Low Dermatitis Potential”

The sulfur-based chemical accelerators – carbamates, thiurams and mercaptobenzothiazoles (MBT) – commonly found in non-latex gloves can lead to contact dermatitis.  If you suspect your gloves are causing your current skin irritation, request a sample pack of FreeStyle1100 Accelerator-Free Nitrile Exam Gloves and Scion700 Nitrile Exam Gloves with Low Dermatitis Potential.

Acrylates in the Dental Office – Hazards and Hand Protection

Acrylates Dental Office Hazard

In the dental office, occupational hazards are everywhere.  You wear masks and gloves to protect yourself from the dangers of infection from close contact with patients’ saliva and blood.  You give attention to your posture to minimize the risk of musculoskeletal disease.  And you wear nitrile gloves, sometimes two pair, when working with acrylates.

Or perhaps not.   A search of some popular dental journals online yielded zero articles on the hazards of what the American Contact Dermatitis Society named the 2012 Allergen of the Year – Acrylates.

Acrylates – What Are They?

Though they get little mention, acrylates are everywhere.   The salts of acrylic or methacrylic acid can be polymerized to form solid plastics.  Polymerized methacrylate was first used in the 1930s, when mass production of Plexiglas began.  It is now used in windowpanes, car lights and windshields, and streetlamps.  Over time, other acrylates have been synthesized and are now found in paints, adhesives, printing inks and medical devices.  Fully polymerized acrylic plastics are inert and harmless.  However, the building blocks – acrylates and methacrylates – are strong irritants and notorious allergens.

But what does this have to do with safety in the dental office?

Acrylates in the Dental Office

These days, many methacrylates are used in dental bonding materials.  These dental materials seem to be a major cause of contact dermatitis in dental personnel.   The polymerization (curing process) of these adhesives and materials occurs with exposure to UV light and with the help of a priming photoinitiator, or when two components are mixed causing a chemical reaction.   In both cases, unreacted monomers are released.  These “free monomers” can cause irritation to skin and eyes, asthma, and allergic dermatitis.

“Dental surgeons, assistants, and technicians are also at risk of allergic sensitization from monofunctional and polyfunctional (meth)acrylates and from the epoxy acrylate prepolymers.”  – American Contact Dermatitis Society

Widely used dentin primers and dentin bonding agents and cements that contain 2-HEMA (hydroxyethyl methacrylate) have been studied.  The authors concluded that the free monomers released from HEMA can affect dental personnel as well as patients in the immediate vicinity.

There are numerous reports of acrylate associated allergy in dental personnel, including fingertip paraesthesia and occupational allergic contact dermatitis caused by a restorative dental material with polymethylmethacrylate.

 

Testing and Protection

Testing for allergic sensitization to acrylates is difficult.  The allergens have to be kept frozen or refrigerated, delayed positive results are common, and patch testing can cause severe allergic reaction.

Methacrylate monomers penetrate vinyl and latex gloves within minutes.  For this reason, the American Contact Dermatitis Society recommends double gloving with nitrile gloves, or polyethylene gloves under nitrile gloves.  This should afford adequate protection for tasks that do not exceed 30 to 60 minutes.

Dental products such as acrylics, resins and polymer materials represent significant advances in dentistry and are here to stay.  Your best option to minimize the risk of developing an acrylate allergy is to stay informed about the signs and symptoms of allergic reactions, keep records of dental materials being used, and put in place whatever precautions are available to limit your exposure.

Are you concerned about acrylates?  Share your comments below.

Sources:
American Contact Dermatitis Society – Acrylates – Contact Allergen of the Year
Dental Occupation Hazards – A Review

Disposable Glove Quality Testing

The FDA sets high standards to ensure the disposable gloves you purchase here in the U.S. perform as expected and provide an adequate barrier for their intended use.  To meet these standards, glove manufacturers have tight quality controls and manufacture gloves according to ASTM specifications and testing requirements.

A key quality measurement that glove manufacturers publish on glove boxes, bags and product literature is AQL, or Acceptable Quality Level.

Stated as a percentage, the AQL is a statistical measurement of the quality of the gloves.  An AQL of 2.5% means that statistically, only 2.5 gloves for every hundred gloves will fail a quality test.

How AQL is Determined

Let’s say a glove manufacturer produces 10,000 gloves from the same material, settings and processes.  Two hundred gloves would be pulled randomly from the line, throughout the batch, to be tested.  To meet an AQL of 2.5%, no more than 10 gloves can fail the quality tests.  If more than 10 gloves fail, the entire batch fails, and each glove must be tested individually for quality, or else the whole batch is discarded.  An AQL of 1.5% would mean that no more than 7 gloves could fail.

ASTM D5151 Test for Detection of Holes in Medical Gloves

Disposable gloves are subjected to numerous ASTM tests throughout the manufacturing process.  One test that medical and cleanroom gloves have in common is a test for pinholes.

ASTM D5151 is the Standard Test Method for Detection of Holes in Medical Gloves, often referred to as the “watertight” test or “water leak” test.   In this test, the gloves are each filled with 1000 ml of water at room temperature, secured at the cuff and hung vertically for two minutes to check for pinholes.  If water does not leak from the glove, it gets a “pass.”

The current FDA mandated maximum AQL for examination and cleanroom gloves on this test is 2.5%, down from the previous 4.0% prior to December 2008.  Some gloves, however, are manufactured and tested to meet the lower AQL of 1.5% required for surgical gloves.  This means higher quality and fewer pinholes.

What is Nitrile Anyway?

Disposable nitrile gloves have become a mainstay in the medical, dental, lab, cleanroom and food handling industries.  We enjoy their strong, latex-free comfort.  But what is nitrile anyway?

The Science of Nitrile

Nitrile is a shortened term for Nitrile Butadiene Rubber, or NBR.  Although it is also referred to as NBR latex, there is no natural rubber latex (or latex proteins) in the material.  Nitrile is a synthetic rubber copolymer of acrylonitrile and butadiene.  These two materials (monomers) are placed in a stainless steel vat, and using hot or cold polymerization, a chemical reaction occurs, and voila!  Nitrile is born.

The nitrile latex is filtered and blended with an antioxidant to stabilize the material.  Next, the liquid is solidified by adding coagulating agents, then finally washed and dried.  The resulting material is referred to as “crumb rubber.”  Crumb rubber can be liquefied by product manufacturers to make nitrile rubber materials, such as floor mats, footwear, adhesives and gloves.

Low-Modulus Magic

Nitrile alone, without anything added, is a fairly rigid material.  So glove manufacturers add a small percentage other chemicals to NBR in order to create a soft, or low modulus, nitrile glove.  Over the past decade, these manufacturers have continued to improve their nitrile glove material formulations.  Disposable nitrile gloves have grown softer and more elastic.  The latest innovations in nitrile glove development include accelerator-free formulations that lower the risk of Type IV contact dermatitis in wearers.

These thin and flexible gloves are what we have all come to rely on to keep ourselves, our patients, products and food items safe.  Nitrile gloves are more resistant to oils and acids than natural rubber (latex) gloves.  The material is resistant to abrasion and puncture, making it suitably durable for many tasks.  Low modulus nitrile gloves also conform well to the hand and provide excellent tactile sensitivity.

As disposable nitrile glove formulations evolve, hand protection is becoming ever safer and more comfortable.  We look forward to continuing to bring you the very best nitrile gloves made from the latest materials.

Have you noticed the improvements in disposable nitrile gloves over the years?  We’d love to hear your comments.  Share them with us below!

HandPRO Gloves Get a Fresh, New Website

For most companies, each new year brings exciting opportunities to overcome challenges, launch new products and improve communication with customers and distribution partners.

We’re no different, and this year we are starting off right with a fresh, new website.

The new www.HourglassIndustries.com brings you new information and new features, all designed to improve your experience.

Read moreHandPRO Gloves Get a Fresh, New Website

Exam Gloves’ Critical Role in Patient Safety

Healthcare professionals have long known the importance of proper glove use during patient care. For over twenty years, exam gloves have been worn to prevent transmission of bloodborne pathogens. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that gloves be worn during all patient-care activities that may involve exposure to blood or body fluids. So when we hear of a healthcare professional that has ignored such clear and common sense direction, the medical community and the public react with surprise and disgust.

Read moreExam Gloves’ Critical Role in Patient Safety

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