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One of the most common chemical compounds found in the laboratory today is latex, a plant based protein which is most often used in disposable gloves. While the low cost and effective barrier of these types of gloves have made them a popular choice, there are many who have an allergic reaction to the plant based derivatives found in them. How can you know if you have a sensitivity? What are the other methods you can use to protect yourself? How should you react if you have a reaction?
Latex is a plant based protein derived from the sap of a rubber tree, which is then heated and chemicals are added to give it strengthening characteristics. There are actually several types of synthetic rubber, which are commonly referred to as “latex.” The common use of gloves in many environments, and the frequency of use, as in some situations gloves may be replaced and used throughout the entire day, have shown an increase in latex reactions over the last few years. This is especially common for those in the healthcare and laboratory industries.
Always remember that latex protection is not just for those with an allergy or sensitivity, like any potential hazard, with increased, prolonged exposure, there can be a variety of consequences. In your workplace, you should review and implement steps to protect yourself and your co-workers from latex exposure.
The implementation of engineering and administrative controls to help reduce the need for, and daily use of, latex gloves is the first recommended approach. This is an opportunity to work with your supervisor to assess your workplace environment, the common daily tasks you complete, and how latex exposure can be further controlled and reduced.