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The History of Disposable Gloves

The History of Disposable Gloves

Disposable gloves have been part of day-to-day tasks for many years, but where did this essential product come from?

Disposable gloves were developed to create barrier protection when there was a great need for cleaner practices.

In 1889 the first surgical glove was developed by Dr. William Stewart Halstead at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Halstead was the first surgeon in chief and was known for his precision and cleanliness. The development of the gloves came after his nurse developed a rash while handling chemicals in surgery. Halstead working with Goodyear Rubber Co. to create rubber gloves to protect her hands; soon his entire surgical staff wore gloves during operations. Early benefits were oriented more toward improved dexterity than hygiene.

Joseph Lister was the first surgeon responsible for making surgical gloves sterile. In 1894, about 50% of all surgical patients died because surgical practices weren’t sterile, and bacteria and pathogens were being passed between patients. Lister used carbolic acid to sterilize his instruments, which became the foundation for antiseptic surgery.

Funding for surgical glove research increased in the early 1940s, and by the time 1965 came around the first disposable glove was developed. At this time the gloves were sterilized using gamma irradiation.

In the early 1990s, as awareness increased around HIV, the bloodborne pathogen standard was released. With this came new requirements in protecting employees who came into contact with bodily fluids. Thus began the rise of personal protective equipment, including increased use of disposable gloves.

During the mid-1990s, nitrile disposable gloves appeared on the market. These gloves provided more chemical resistance than latex and were perfect for consumers with latex allergies. This created a shift for the medical industry as nitrile became more prevalent to protect against potential patient latex allergies. The nitrile glove was not intended to replace latex gloves but instead focus on chemical resistance.

Disposable gloves were pioneered by the medical industry and increased exam application use. The safe use of disposable gloves has expanded today to encompass automotive and industrial, food service and processing, janitorial and sanitation, and much more. The industrial segment of the market is currently the fastest-growing sector for disposable glove use.

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