Rubber gloves are an essential part of preventing illnesses and cross-contamination in a wide range of workplaces. Even when regulations don’t strictly require gloves, rubber gloves provide an added layer of protection and peace of mind.
Latex allergies are a significant concern for traditional natural rubber gloves, so manufacturers have pursued alternative glove materials. Latex-free nitrile gloves are a popular option with professionals whose jobs require them to interact with members of the public or who have latex allergies themselves. Although nitrile disposable gloves are slightly less flexible than latex, the difference is nearly unnoticeable in most settings.
What is Nitrile?
Nitrile is shorthand for nitrile butadiene rubber, which is derived from acrylonitrile and butadiene. This synthetic rubber used to be difficult to produce, but improvements in technology have made it faster and cheaper to produce than ever before.
Because it’s inexpensive and highly flexible, it’s popular among medical professionals, tattoo artists, food service workers, and other groups that need gloves for protection from a variety of elements.
Latex allergies can emerge at any time in a person’s life, so a patient or staff member who previously had no latex sensitivities could suddenly develop a severe reaction. This is of particular concern in medical settings where patients may have to undergo time-sensitive or difficult operations, and medical staff don’t have time to troubleshoot allergic reactions.
Nitrile glove allergies are extremely rare and are linked to chemicals used in manufacturing the gloves instead of the nitrile itself. Although some people had reactions to nitrile gloves in years past, manufacturers mostly fixed this problem by removing a sulfur-based chemical accelerator previously used in production. This makes it a very popular and successful alternative to latex.
High Puncture Resistance
Latex rubber provides protection from basic contaminants like bodily fluids and pathogens, but they do not hold up well under stretching and punctures. This can be a serious safety hazard for staff working in an emergency room who have to deal with a wide range of injuries and potential hazards. Needles, metal fragments, and other debris can cut through latex in an instant.
Although nitrile is not completely impervious to punctures, it offers more protection than latex. It takes a very sharp surface to cut through nitrile quickly, and when a puncture occurs, it is much more visible than a puncture in a latex glove. This makes nitrile the ideal glove of choice for emergency rooms and any other setting where staff may encounter unknown materials.
Chemical and Microbial Degradation
Latex degrades quickly when exposed to hydrocarbons, including solvents, fuel, and other oil-based products. This lack of chemical resistance makes latex a poor choice for automotive work, certain art projects, and use in emergency rooms. Since ER doctors and nurses may encounter any kind of contaminants, it’s essential that they have gloves that will hold up.
There are even microbes that can wear away at natural rubber latex. Although these microbes are uncommon, they are still a potential threat in a medical setting.
Nitrile gloves hold up much better against most chemicals. Medical professionals must still monitor their gloves for signs of damage when working around unknown contaminants, but the risk is much lower than with latex gloves.
Nitrile gloves are available in a variety of colors to suit your facility’s needs. Blue is the most common medical environment option since it was traditionally used to differentiate them from latex gloves, but purple, black, and white are also popular. You may find that using a color-coded system, such as using blue for standard-size gloves and white for small-size gloves, helps your team members manage their PPE more effectively.
Gloves designed for foodservice use usually have a light coating of food-grade corn starch inside to help improve the wearer’s grip. However, this coating is usually undesirable in medical settings, so powder-free nitrile gloves are also available.
Maintaining a Supply of PPE
During a crisis, gloves and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be in short supply. Although latex or vinyl gloves are an excellent choice in some settings, medical facilities and other locations with heavy interaction with members of the public need a supply of nitrile gloves. You need to partner with a reliable PPE provider to make sure you have what you need at all times.
ICU Production is committed to being the best partner possible as you provide critical services to the public. We provide a full range of PPE, including nitrile gloves, masks, gowns, goggles, and more. We understand your organization’s needs may be complex, so call us today at 1 (323) 970-2513 so we can work together to meet your needs.