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.