FDA approves new latex gloves

Dentists whose gloves irritate their hands got some good news April 23 when the FDA approved gloves made from a new type of latex.

Yulex of Maricopa, AZ, makes the new gloves from the guayule bush, a desert plant native to the southwestern U.S.

Traditional latex gloves are made from the milky sap of a rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. The sap contains a protein that may trigger allergic reactions, especially after prolonged and repeated contact, according to the FDA.

Sensitized people may experience mild reactions, such as skin redness, rash, hives, or itching. More severe reactions may include respiratory symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, coughing spells, and wheezing. Rarely, shock may occur.

Between 3% and 22% of all healthcare workers are sensitized to traditional latex. Available data on the new guayule latex show that even people who are highly allergic to traditional latex do not react on first exposure to guayule latex proteins, the FDA reported in a press release.

"This approval has the potential to make a significant difference to both the general public and the medical community at large," said Daniel Schultz, M.D., director of FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. "Gloves made from guayule latex may prove to be a safer alternative for some people with sensitivity to traditional latex. And yet they will not sacrifice the desirable properties of traditional latex such as flexibility and strength."

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