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?


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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Cleanroom Gloves – Balancing ESD and Cleanliness

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]leanroom environments in the electronics, nanotechnology and semiconductor industries are especially sensitive to static.  For this reason, the electrostatic discharge (ESD) property of cleanroom gloves worn by workers is an important consideration.

Electrostatic discharge damages the electrical characteristics of a semiconductor device.  It can also cause equipment to malfunction or fail, interfering with the normal operation of an electronic system.

An electrostatically charged surface can also attract and hold onto contaminants – bad news for the cleanroom environment.  Airborne particles can cause defects in a device’s electrical circuitry.

Controlling ESD

Failing to control ESD in a cleanroom can be expensive.  Static electricity damages electronics, leading to increased manufacturing costs and lower production yields, negatively affecting a company’s reputation and profitability.  One way that cleanrooms manage static charge is by using static dissipative materials.

Static dissipative materials fall somewhere between insulative and conductive materials.  There is electron flow through or over the material, but in a controlled fashion, by the surface resistance or volume resistance of the material.  It allows the charge to dissipate, or transfer slowly to ground without causing damage.

Cleanroom Nitrile Gloves Preferred

When selecting gloves for cleanroom applications where static discharge could harm the product, or where static could lead to contamination, nitrile gloves are the preferred choice.

Gloves made from natural rubber latex are inherently static insulative, holding on to a charge and releasing it in an uncontrolled manner, leading to damage.  The surface resistance of nitrile gloves, however, is normally on the border of insulative and static dissipative.  To be considered static dissipative, the glove should have a surface resistance of more than 1 x 105 but less than 1 x 1011 ohms/sq.  The surface resistance test results for a glove can usually be found on the manufacturer’s product information sheet.

Balancing ESD with Cleanliness

Interestingly, the cleaner the glove, the lower the glove’s ESD protection.  Tom Lesniewski and Kenn Yates of the TRW Space and Electronics Group conducted an evaluation of the cleanliness and ESD protective properties of cleanroom materials, including 7 different types of nitrile gloves.

They found a clear trend – as non-volatile residue (NVR) increased, surface resistance decreased.  The surface contaminants on a glove make the glove more static dissipative, especially in higher humidity.

Because there is clear tradeoff between cleanliness and charge dissipation rate, cleanrooms requiring a high level of ESD protection should choose a cleanroom glove only as clean as it needs to be for the ISO level of the cleanroom.


HandPRO Cleanroom Nitrile Gloves provide the moderate static dissipation needed to protect highly ESD sensitive devices from damage.  The gloves are also very clean, making them a contamination-free solution for cleanrooms requiring low ionic contamination.

Learn more about HandPRO 9100 Clean Class 100 Accelerator-Free Nitrile Gloves for ISO 5 & up.

Learn more about HandPRO 1700 Controlled Environment Nitrile Gloves for ISO 6 & up.[/note]


How does a cleanroom glove’s ESD property impact your manufacturing environment?  Share your comments below.

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.

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

Are Your Cleanroom Nitrile Gloves Full of Pinholes?

Cleanroom Gloves and Pinholes

Cleanroom and controlled environments have unique glove requirements.  While healthcare workers primarily wear gloves to protect themselves from bloodborne pathogens, a person working in a clean manufacturing environment primarily wears gloves to protect the product or process from contamination.

Pinholes in gloves provide a path for human-borne contaminants in the clean manufacturing environment.   Just one square inch of the surface of a person’s hand can contain 10,000 microorganisms!

So how common are pinholes in cleanroom gloves?

A study published in May 2011, Integrity of Disposable Nitrile Exam Gloves Exposed to Simulated Movement,  compared cleanroom nitrile gloves to medical-grade, low-modulus and general duty nitrile gloves.  A total of thirty different glove products were tested, including six cleanroom and nine medical-grade nitrile glove products.  A modified water-leak test was used to detect a 0.15 to 0.05 mm hole in different areas of the glove, including the thumb and pinky.  What did they discover?

“The cleanroom gloves, on average, had the highest percentage of leaks, and 50% failed the water-leak test.”

Two of the cleanroom nitrile gloves tested had an out of the box failure rate of 6.25%.  The medical grade and low modulus gloves had the lowest percentage of leaks.  Even the general duty gloves performed better than the cleanroom gloves tested.   However, two of the six cleanroom gloves tested had a failure rate of zero percent.  Why such a significant difference?

The study authors indicate that it could be due to differences in nitrile material formulation.  A low-modulus nitrile glove with a higher percentage of plasticizer, which is more water resistant, was expected to perform better in the water leak test.

What was not discussed in the paper is the AQL, or Acceptable Quality Level, of the gloves tested.  The AQL for the water leak test, a test that indicates what percentage of the gloves can fail a water test for pinholes, is set by ASTM at 2.5% for cleanroom gloves.  Many manufacturers, however, use the medical grade requirement of 1.5%.  This means that less than 1.5% of the gloves from any given lot could fail due to pinholes – substantially less than 2.5%.

Clearly, there are significant differences in the quality of cleanroom gloves on the market.  To protect your cleanroom environment, select cleanroom gloves made from consistently high quality low-modulus NBR materials, and an AQL of 1.5% or less.

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.

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New Glove Materials Make Nitrile Gloves Better

Nitrile gloves have come a long way. In the early days, when nitrile gloves were the “new” latex-free option, healthcare professionals did not find them nearly as comfortable as natural rubber latex gloves. And the price for these new medical nitrile gloves was higher than latex. Still, in order to reduce the very real problem of latex sensitization, the healthcare world began to transition to nitrile gloves.

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