Chemicals are part of many products, and those produced for the healthcare environment are no exception. Among more than 4,000 environmental chemicals that have been identified as contact allergens, rubber exam glove chemicals are one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) among medical staff. According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contact dermatitis is one of the most common on-the-job diseases, with annual treatment costs exceeding 1 billion US dollars.
Most people associate rubber glove allergy with latex, but non-latex exam gloves can also cause allergic reactions. Although the healthcare industry has stopped using latex in the past decade, skin allergies to non-latex examination gloves have increased. These reactions are mostly described as chemical or type IV allergies.
Type IV allergies are usually attributed to sulfur-based chemical accelerators (mainly thiazoles, thiurams, and carbamates), which are used to ensure rapid vulcanization of polymers in nitrile or other non-latex inspection gloves. For some people, exposure to these chemicals may cause skin redness, itching, or burns, which may affect the ability to safely care for patients.
In order to provide employees with as safe an environment as possible, those responsible for purchasing products for their medical institutions need to be up-to-date, understand the allergy risks of gloves, and ensure that they have the necessary substitutes. In addition to reducing the allergy-related pain of thousands of medical staff, prioritizing latex examination gloves in the allergy management plan also has good commercial significance, because the consequences of allergic reactions may increase the cost of missed shifts and corresponding staffing challenges in the hospital.
Although the hospital is a patient-centered institution, it is also vital to protect the staff responsible for caring for these patients. Commonly used personal protective equipment, such as gloves, is an important part of it. However, if the chemicals used in the production of gloves can trigger allergic reactions, it may do more harm than good to both the individual wearing the glove or the entire organization.
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