Particulate masks and non-powdered gloves reduce latex allergen inhaled by healthcare workers

Clin Exp Allergy. 2002 Aug;32(8):1166-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2745.2002.01432.x.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Gloves, Protective*
  • Health Personnel*
  • Hospital Departments
  • Humans
  • Latex Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Masks*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Exposure