Different latex aeroallergen size distributions between powdered surgical and examination gloves: Significance for environmental avoidance

Robert H. Brown, Kanika Taenkhum, Timothy J. Buckley, Robert G. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Proactive medical institutions implement latex allergen avoidance to protect workers and patients with latex allergy and to prevent latex sensitization in these groups by creating latex-safe environments that include replacement of natural rubber latex examination and surgical gloves, especially those that are powdered, with synthetic alternatives. We have hypothesized that an apparent decreasing trend in new latex allergy cases in hospitals using only synthetic examination gloves but the occasional powdered latex surgical glove might result from constitutive differences in allergen content (particle size distribution and quantity) between powdered surgical gloves and examination gloves. Objective Because aerodynamic particle size determines where inhaled airborne allergen deposits in the airway, the aim of this study was to investigate the differential particle size distribution of latex allergen released from powdered latex examination and surgical gloves. Methods Powdered and nonpowdered latex examination and surgical gloves were processed to create an aerosol in a glove box equipped with air sampling equipment capable of total particle number and mass measurements. Air particulate generated in the glove box was collected on impactors with less than 2.5-μm, 2.5- to 10-μm, and greater than 10-μm particle size limits (4 L/min for 4 hours). All filters were extracted, and latex allergen was quantified by using a latex-CAP inhibition assay with a human IgE anti-latex serum pool. Results Latex aeroallergen on powdered sterile surgical gloves resided primarily on particles greater than 10 μm in size (P < .006). In contrast, powdered examination gloves released the highest total latex aeroallergen content, with 68% of the particles sized in the respirable 2.5- to 10-μm range and carrying 56% of the airborne latex allergen. Conclusions Significantly lower quantities and larger sizes of latex allergen-containing particles released from surgical gloves provides one potential explanation as to why an apparent decrease in new cases of latex allergy can occur in hospitals that successfully replace latex examination gloves with synthetic gloves but continue occasional use of powdered surgical gloves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-363
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004


  • AU
  • Allergen unit
  • Latex allergy
  • allergen
  • avoidance therapy
  • particle size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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