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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Disposable Gloves Reduce Risk of Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illness.  No restaurant operator wants those words associated with their establishment.  To ensure their food is safe, many hours are devoted to employee education and ongoing training.  Hand hygiene and disposable gloves are an important part of safe food handling.

Restroom Germs and Cross-Contamination

A critical component to safe food handling is proper gloving and hand hygiene. “Restroom germs” such as E. coli, Staphylococcus, Giardia, Hepatitis A, Norovirus, and Shigella can be transmitted from hands to food.  Cross-contamination can also occur, transferring pathogens such as salmonella.  Restaurants offering gluten-free foods have the added concern of  gluten being accidentally transferred.

The problem of foodborne illness has real consequences – both for customers and food service establishments.  In 2009, a McDonald’s location in Illinois was linked to a hepatitis A outbreak that resulted in a class-action lawsuit.  And in New York City alone, dining out was linked to 3,500 hospitalizations in 2008 for food-borne illnesses and some 1,300 cases of salmonella.

But even if employees were always diligent about washing their hands, hand washing alone is not enough to prevent food-borne illness.  Routine hand washing does not remove all bacteria, and it only takes a small amount to make someone sick.  An additional barrier, such as a disposable glove, is needed.

FDA Food Code 2009

To help make food safer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an updated Food Code in 2009.  Here are some of the food handling rules:

  • Employees may not touch ready-to-eat foods with bare hands, except when washing fruits and vegetables, or when otherwise approved.  They must use a barrier, such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs or gloves.
  • Wearing gloves is not a substitute for proper hand washing. Gloves can fail, and allow bacteria and viruses through, so employees must wash their hands before donning gloves to work with food.
  • Gloves should be changed often.  Gloves should be changed when they become damaged or soiled, after 4 hours of wear, or after handling raw foods.
  • Glove should be worn for a single task.  A food service employee should never handle money, take out the trash or perform other tasks and return to handling ready-to-eat food without changing their gloves.

Gluten-Free Food Handling

Restaurants such as Subway that are starting to offer gluten-free foods are giving special attention to hand hygiene and proper gloving and food handling.  And rightly so.  An employee that handles regular gluten-containing bread and then handles gluten-free bead without changing gloves has just cross-contaminated the food.  While this may not affect a customer with a non-celiac gluten intolerance, it spells real trouble for a customer with true Celiac Disease.

Glove Selection Considerations

Restaurant operators or managers selecting gloves for employees are necessarily concerned with cost.  But the cheapest gloves may not be the best choice.  Considering the following criteria will help ensure the right glove is purchased for the right job.

  • Proper Fit – For the safety of the employee, properly fitted gloves are essential.  Gloves that are too loose can result in serious bodily injury.  Glove that are too tight lead to hand strain.
  • Proper Material – Consider the dexterity needed for the tasks the employee is performing.  While a poly glove may be suitable for assembling a sandwich, a more form fitting nitrile glove is better suited for tasks like slicing and chopping.
  • Comfort – A comfortable glove that provides adequate grip and tactile sense will increase employee compliance and safety.
  • Allergens – Allergens and chemical sensitivities should be considered.  Employees concerned about latex sensitization should be offered a non-latex alternative, like nitrile gloves.  Please note that some individuals may be sensitive to the chemicals commonly found in non-latex gloves.  If this is the case, accelerator-free nitrile gloves like FreeStyle1100 are now available.

By carefully educating employees about hand hygiene and providing gloves that are suitable to the task and comfortable to wear, restaurant operators can be confident they are doing their part to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

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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

Nitrile Gloves, Vinyl Gloves and Tomato Salmonella to be Studied

The tomato salmonella outbreak of 2008 in the United States affected the entire nation. For months, while the source of the salmonella was hunted down, no one dared eat a raw tomato. The enormity of the problem led to criticism of the FDA, and a renewed effort to improve food safety in growing and harvesting fresh produce.

Read moreNitrile Gloves, Vinyl Gloves and Tomato Salmonella to be Studied

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