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Citizens’ group to FDA: Ban latex glove use

If latex glove makers won’t quit, you must restrict.

That’s a short review of the April 25 letter sent to the FDA from Public Citizen Health Research Group [1] on banning powdered and latex surgeon’s and patient examination gloves.

The advocacy group said that because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has refused to take action on this and several similar petitions over the last 13 years, “untold numbers of preventable serious injuries have continued to occur to both patients and healthcare workers exposed to these extremely dangerous products,” according to an April 27 HealthLeaders article [2].

Here is an excerpt from that article:

“In the group’s letter, Public Citizen director Sidney Wolfe, MD and deputy director, and Michael Carome, MD accused the agency of acting “in the interests of cornstarch-powdered and latex glove manufacturers,” who have opposed the ban, rather than “in the interests of public health.” Although they are more expensive, non-latex products are now in use at many healthcare systems including Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Healthcare in the Northwest and Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania Alternatives, the letter says.

Serious problems with the latex products containing cornstarch may occur in both the clinicians who use them as well as their patients. When providers don and remove the gloves, the cornstarch powder can become aerosolized to cause allergic reactions in patients.

The powder also can be deposited in tissue of patients during surgery. When that happens, it can promote wound infections, delay healing, cause granuloma formation or intestinal obstruction, pelvic pain, and infertility secondary to peritoneal adhesions, as well as several other adverse events, Public Citizen says.

For healthcare workers, proteins in the latex can cause allergic reactions, some of which are serious or even life threatening, including contact dermatitis, rhinitis, conjunctivitis and even more serious conditions such as asthma or anaphylactic shock, Wolfe and Carome wrote.

Nancy Foster, Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety Policy for the American Hospital Association, said in an interview Tuesday that “latex gloves and other products are an important part of the current methods we use to protect against transmission of infection.” She adds that there seems to be a growing trend to use non-latex products within the industry, although they are more expensive.”

Where do you stand on this issue? Does the FDA’s failure to ban latex gloves or the use of cornstarch in their manufacturing process “demonstrates astonishingly reckless and inexcusable disregard for the health and safety of patients and healthcare workers?” according Public Citizen Health Research Group. Let us know in the comment section below.