Federal agencies address latex allergies

Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an updated Safety and Health Information Bulletin on latex sensitization and latex allergy. In it, OSHA suggests the following measures to reduce health care worker exposure to latex:

  • If selecting natural rubber latex gloves for employee use, designate natural rubber latex as a choice only in those situations requiring protection from infectious agents.
  • If selecting natural rubber latex gloves, choose those that have lower allergenic protein content. Selecting powder-free gloves affords the additional benefit of reducing response to environmental exposure.
  • Provide alternative suitable non-natural rubber latex gloves as choices for employee use and as required by OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard [29 CFR 1910.1030, paragraph (d)(3)(iii)] for employees who are allergic to natural rubber latex gloves.

OSHA also recommends that facilities identify all products that contain natural rubber latex and monitor the natural rubber latex content of incoming products. Facilities also need a system for reporting, evaluating, and managing latex-allergy cases among employees, the bulletin says.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires labeling of medical devices that contain natural rubber latex. But keeping track of products that contain latex can be difficult, especially if the label is on the box rather than on individual items. (Editor's note: The full bulletin is available at www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib012808.html.)