Background: The advent of universal precautions brought about a dramatic increase in the use of natural rubber latex gloves, and reports of rubber latex allergies began appearing in the literature. In 1997 the Johns Hopkins Hospital created the interdisciplinary Latex Task Force to address the issue of creating, implementing, and evaluating a latex-safe environment.
Conversion to nonlatex products and examination gloves: When suitable alternatives were available, all medical products that contained latex were to be removed from the hospital and nonlatex alternatives substituted. Latex medical gloves, especially powdered latex examination gloves, which were used in all patient care areas, were replaced by vinyl gloves. Yet because of the ongoing concern about strike-through and the minimal level of acceptance of fit with the vinyl gloves, the search for alternatives to the vinyl gloves continued. The task force recommended switching to nitrile examination gloves throughout the hospital. To facilitate the transition to another examination glove, new educational pamphlets about the nitrile gloves were developed.
Postscript: The switch to nitrile examination gloves was successfully completed, but conversion to nonlatex surgical gloves was less successful, with costs being the overwhelming impediment. Monitoring of latex-containing products and ongoing evaluations of alternatives are crucial in ensuring patient and health care worker safety.