The FDA is proposing to ban powder on surgical and examination gloves based on reported adverse effects and the availability of alternatives that are equivalent in price and just as easy to use
Medical gloves are used by medical professionals to protect themselves and patients from diseases and contaminants. Glove powder is a form of processed cornstarch and can be used to lubricate the inside and outside of surgical and patient examination gloves to make it easier to put them on as well as conduct exams. While the health risks posed by powdered gloves vary depending on whether the glove is made from synthetic materials or natural rubber latex, the FDA believes that both types present substantial risk to the wearer and patient relative to the glove’s overall benefit. As such, the FDA proposes to ban powder on surgical and examination gloves to protect public health.
Glove powder can adhere to latex proteins from latex gloves. The latex aerosol produced when latex-powdered gloves are put on or taken off has been demonstrated to trigger inflammatory responses, hypersensitivity, and respiratory allergic reactions to latex from inhalation. Health care workers in particular can develop latex allergies or occupational asthma. Absorbable dusting powders used for lubricating the outside of surgical or patient latex examination gloves can cause similar adverse reactions.
Synthetic powdered surgical gloves, which do not carry the latex allergen risk, can still expose patient tissues to glove powder during surgery since powder aerosols can leave deposits on gloved hands or tools. Powder from any glove type during surgical procedures can lead to cell and wound inflammation, as well as scar tissue between internal organs and tissues. Synthetic powdered examination gloves or dusting powders used for lubrication during oral and rectal exams also present a risk of illness or injury. Clinical studies and cases have shown female reproductive tract complications can occur if the glove powder is introduced into the reproductive system during gynaecological or vaginal exams.
Medical glove manufacturers have developed non-powdered glove alternatives made from a number of materials that are similar in cost and just as easy to put on as the powdered variety. In fact, since the year 2000, sales of non-powdered gloves show an increase over powdered gloved use. Recent projections suggest that 93% of health care professionals have actually switched to non-powdered gloves, a trend attributed to scientific research and public awareness of the adverse effects of glove powder. If the FDA’s proposal to ban powder on surgical and examination gloves is adopted, a net benefit to society has been projected, mainly due to a reduction in adverse events and resulting annual benefits between $26 and $29 million dollars.
Written By: Fiona Wong, PhD