Should the FDA Ban Latex Gloves Due to Allergy Risk?

On April 26, 2011, Public Citizen, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of the public in Washington, issued a press release announcing the filing of a petition with FDA to ban surgical and examination gloves that have cornstarch powder on them or that are made of natural rubber latex due to the risk of life-threatening reactions posed by such gloves to healthcare workers and patients allergic to latex.

In the release, Public Citizen observed that serious allergic reactions can occur when health care workers wear latex gloves, or when they inhale cornstarch powder bound to latex proteins that has been released from latex gloves worn by others. Breathing in cornstarch powder bound to latex proteins can cause acute asthma attacks and anaphylactic shock in health care workers sensitized to latex.

Patients can suffer serious allergic reactions due to inhalation, or when cornstarch is deposited in tissues during surgery (which can also cause infections and delay healing).

Significantly, this is the second time Public Citizen has petitioned the agency to ban the use of cornstarch powder in latex gloves. The first time was on Jan. 7, 1998. The FDA rejected that petition.