Latex gloves are a bad deal.
Healthcare workers all over the world have figured this out. However, in many non-healthcare-related industries, such as food service, latex gloves continue to turn up like a bad penny. Unfortunately, in our experience, this problem is common in Bermuda.
What's wrong with latex gloves? Allergies. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is clear on the subject (some of the emphasis is ours):
- 8-12 percent of health care workers are latex sensitive with reactions ranging from irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact sensitivity, to immediate, possibly life-threatening, sensitivity.
- Workers exposed to latex gloves and other products containing natural rubber latex may develop allergic reactions such as skin rashes; hives; nasal, eye, or sinus symptoms; asthma; and (rarely) shock.
- Workers with ongoing latex exposure from wearing latex gloves or using latex-containing medical supplies are at risk for developing latex allergy. Such workers include health care workers (physicians, nurses, aides, pharmacists, operating room employees, laboratory technicians, gardeners, food service workers, and housekeeping personnel) may also be at risk.
There you have it. It's bad enough that many people already have latex allergies. With repeated latex exposure, some people may develop a latex allergy even if they did not have one before.
The risk of latex allergies is not confined to food handling staff. Restaurant visitors may also be exposed to latex and when they develop an allergic reaction, they may think it is food-related. However, some "food allergies" may actually be caused by latex that got into food from gloves.
What to do?
OSHA suggests using "hypoallergenic gloves" and recommends powder-free gloves. Three examples of such gloves would be:
- Nitrile - a synthetic rubber that is similar in performance to Latex and is suitable for medical use, without the allergies;
- Vinyl - not as high-performing as Nitrile but suitable for food handling and light cleaning applications;
- Chloroprene - a new synthetic rubber material, with overall performance similar to Nitrile but slightly more comfortable and stretchy than Nitrile.
The cost of these gloves has become more competitive recently. The change is already afoot because adopting the use of non-latex gloves has benefits for workers, consumers, and the food industry.
We believe in embracing the change and leading the industry, rather than being left behind.
What do you believe?