Latex threat extends beyond gloves, health care

While examination and surgical gloves are probably the greatest potential source of latex contamination for health care workers, other materials can also affect latex-sensitive workers. According to BSN-JOBST, of Charlotte, NC, these include elastic in clothing, surgical masks, and medical packaging.

And health care professionals are far from the only employee population that needs to be concerned about latex sensitivity. BSN-JOBST, which manufactures latex-free products and packaging, including Coverlet adhesive dressings, notes that other professionals with increased exposure to latex products include housekeepers, hairdressers, food servers, and workers in industries that manufacture latex. Other products that contain latex include erasers, diaphragms, rubber bands, condoms, balloons and pacifiers, says the manufacturer.

If you are concerned about latex exposure in your workplace, here are some steps BSN-JOBST recommends:

• Know which products are likely to contain latex.

• Wherever possible, substitute nonlatex products.

• Before exposing others to latex products, inquire about any potential latex sensitivities.

• When latex gloves are necessary (i.e., when handling infectious materials), use powder-free gloves, avoid oil-based hand creams or lotions, and wash hands thoroughly after removing gloves.

• Frequently clean areas that are exposed to latex dust.

• Frequently change ventilation filters and vacuum bags used in areas that contain latex products.

• Learn to recognize the symptoms of latex allergy.

Additional sources of information on latex allergies include the National Latex Allergy Network (ELAST INC.), http://latex-allergy.org, and the American Latex Allergy Association (A.L.E.R.T. Inc.), www.latexallergyresources.org. BSN-JOBST can be reached at (704) 554-9933, or on the Internet at www.coverlet.com