Background Although allergy to latex is a well-characterized phenomenon, some hospitals continue to provide staff with powdered latex gloves as an option to low- or non-powdered gloves.
Objective We aimed to measure the extent to which inhalation of latex particles could be reduced by the use of protective masks or by replacing powdered latex gloves with non-powdered latex gloves.
Methods Twenty healthcare workers in a hospital setting wore nasal air samplers (NAS) and Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) samplers for four 20-min periods. Subjects wore powdered gloves, non-powdered gloves and no gloves during three sampling periods, and in the fourth, subjects applied an aerosol barrier face-mask or a particulate face-mask (N95) while wearing powdered gloves. All samples were stained for particles bearing Hev b 5 allergen by the Halogen assay.
Results All subjects inhaled Hev b 5 bearing particles in all sampling periods. IOM samplers collected particles at 70% of the rate of NAS. The number of particles inhaled while wearing powdered gloves was 23.8-fold higher than when not wearing gloves and 9.7-fold higher than when wearing non-powdered latex gloves (P < 0.0001). Wearing an aerosol barrier mask did not significantly reduce the number of particles inhaled (P = 0.108), while use of particulate masks significantly reduced the number of particles inhaled by 17.4-fold (P = 0.003).
Conclusions Use of non-powdered gloves is the most effective method of reducing occupational aeroallergen exposure to latex arising from gloves. However, secondary protection using particulate masks is a valid alternative, and may be helpful for preventing respiratory sensitization.
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