History of Latex Gloves

Latex is a natural rubber product derived from the sap of the mature Hevea brasiliensis tree, native to South America but also grown in such Southeast Asian countries as Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. It replaced the India rubber plant in the early 20th century as the primary source of natural rubber.

Once the sap is collected, it must be chemically treated through a process called vulcanization, which was patented in the United States by Charles Goodyear in 1844. Vulcanizing natural rubber converts the polymers into a more durable, stretchable material. Because of its superior fit and feel, latex traditionally has been used most often in medical applications, although nitrile and vinyl are gaining popularity as general exam gloves because of allergy concerns and vinyl’s lower cost. Latex gloves are available both powdered and powder free, although powdered latex gloves were prohibited for medical use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration in January 2017.

Industrial-grade latex gloves are popular for automotive, janitorial, and such other applications as paint shops and printing operations. They’re also used in food processing and food service. In exam grade, the gloves are suitable across the healthcare spectrum, for medical, dental, and laboratory applications and non-surgical procedures, as well as EMS uses, depending on jurisdiction. Latex allergies are present in less than 1 percent of the U.S. population (about 3 million people). This number grows to between 8% and 17% of health care workers, because regular use of products containing latex may trigger sensitivity. Some may develop an allergic reaction known as contact dermatitis even where no allergy existed before.

Washing of gloves in a chlorinated solution can reduce latex proteins, but not eliminate them entirely. Chlorination also softens gloves but reduces their shelf life. Latex gloves have better puncture resistance than vinyl, but not as good as nitrile. Pricing is subject to fluctuation due to factors that affect any natural resources, including weather and economic instability.

MedSupply offers a variety of nitrile gloves for various industries.

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