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Latex allergies get a lot of attention, especially in the disposable glove business. An important part of finding “the right glove for the job” is determining whether the person wearing said glove is allergic to natural rubber latex proteins, and recommending substitutes if necessary.
In truth, such allergies are rare. They affect approximately 1 percent of the general population and 8 to 12 percent of healthcare workers. (Latex allergies become more prevalent in people who are exposed to the material regularly, and most medical-grade gloves are made from latex.)
That said, because the allergic response to latex can be severe, if even 1 in 1,000 people is potentially affected, it’s not a risk worth taking. Selling latex gloves involves a delicate balancing act between giving people what they may want and cautioning them about the risks involved.
Latex gloves deliver unprecedented comfort, fit, feel, and tactile sensitivity. At the same time, it’s possible to cause discomfort and worse—including anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical attention—for people nearby simply by wearing latex gloves.
In 2022, there is little need for latex gloves in the working world. Nitrile butadiene rubber—a synthetic substitute that features similar fit, feel, and comfort without any concerns about aggravating allergies—has become the No. 1 glove material of choice among professionals in numerous industries.
There are specific use cases, however, where latex still reigns. Nail salon workers prefer latex because it not only stands up better to the acetone used in manicures and pedicures, but also because its tight fit and excellent dexterity are prized by technicians creating inventive nail designs. Preferred gloves are Gloveworks Ivory Latex (TLF) and AMMEX Professional Ivory Latex (GPPFT), both at 4 mils.
Latex gloves are also popular in restaurant use, but really shouldn’t be used around food. Wearing latex while preparing or serving food can put diners at risk. Consider switching to nitrile, a much better choice in today’s workplace.
For light-duty tasks, there is X3 Black Nitrile (BX3). Only 3 mils thick, yet they deliver excellent barrier protection as well as comfort and dexterity to rival latex. They are perfect for foodservice, jan/san, beauty & salon, and dozens more applications.
For a step up in protection, the 5-mil 1st Choice Black Nitrile (1BN) is a real workhorse suited for heavier-duty tasks, and the 6-mil 1st Choice Premium Black Nitrile (1PBN) is a step beyond. For an even sturdier glove, there are the 6-mil 1st Choice Premium Orange Nitrile (1ON) and Green Nitrile (1GN), both of which feature Raised Diamond Texture for added gripping power.
Latex isn’t dead, but for all intents and purposes it is on life support. Strongly consider transitioning to nitrile. It truly is the present, and the future, of disposable gloves.