FAQ - Glove Powder & Latex Protein
Does glove powder cause latex allergy?
Glove powder, which is used in the manufacturing process as a mold releasing agent and a donning lubricant, is also believed to be one possible cause of sensitization. However, it is important to understand that glove powder or cornstarch powder itself is not known to be an allergen.
It is during the manufacturing process whereby the glove powder can absorb some soluble protein. Via aerosolization, these powder particles become airborne. Inhalation or direct contact with these powder particles is alleged to bring about allergic reactions.
Therefore, it is important to use only gloves with low protein and low powder content or low protein and powder free gloves.
It is equally important to note that NOT all powder free gloves will have a low protein level. There are powder free gloves that contain a high level of latex protein. Therefore, the association of glove powder and soluble protein must be clarified, and only low protein powder free gloves should be used.
Why, then, are Powder Free gloves less likely to cause reactions?
Removing powder from gloves is done "post-process," meaning that the removal of powder occurs after the glove has been fully manufactured. This procedure is called chlorination. While powder removal is the main objective, chlorination simultaneously removes a significant amount of the residual protein from the glove.
This reduction in residual protein is the reason powder free gloves are less likely to induce protein allergy reactions. Thus, the powder is not the source of protein allergy reactions.
Other powder removal processes simply substitute powder with a different coating agent like polyurethane or acrylic during production. While this eliminates powder from the gloves, the protein level remains the same as that of a prepowdered glove. This can be misleading to end – users.
Are powder free gloves completely powder free?
Due to the different manufacturing processes of powder free gloves, they are not 100% completely powder free. The definition of powder according to the ASTM is anything that does not pass through a 2.7 micrometer glass microfiber filter by using suction filtration.
These may include cornstarch, calcium carbonate aggregates, latex particles, synthetic debris, packaging fibers, non-soluble lubricants, dust, etc. However, ASTM has set a maximum limit for powder at 4 mg per glove for all powder free gloves, and has intended to further reduce the limit to 3 mg in the future, and then to 2 mg per glove.
Can using Nitrile gloves eliminate allergy reaction?
Unlike latex, Nitrile material does not contain latex proteins. Therefore, anyone who is allergic to latex proteins will not have latex protein-induced allergies when using Nitrile gloves. This is an alternative product to latex.
Some users of Nitrile gloves have reported allergic reactions triggered by other antigens in the synthetic material but not by proteins.