What do you do when the people you turn to when you’re sick, end up doing more harm than good? Millions of Americans suffer from a wide range of allergies. Imagine having an allergy to peanuts but not a label that explained what packaged food you were about to consume was processed in a plant where peanuts were processed. This was a scary reality years ago but we’ve made progress. However, when it comes to latex gloves we are far behind and today Public Citizen is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a second time to get its act together before more lives are needlessly harmed or lost.
Imagine you were just in a car accident and were rushed to a hospital in an ambulance unconscious. You happen to have an allergy to latex but the attending physicians don’t know this and you are in no position to tell them.
In 1998, the German government banned the use of powdered latex gloves. According to Dr. Michael Carome, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group,
“Collectively, thousands of lives have been saved and health spared in other countries because they have placed the health of the public ahead of the concerns of manufacturers of products with no unique benefits, only unique risks.”
The risks that are posed are posed to both the people administering care and receiving care.
For healthcare workers, the major risk posed by the gloves is allergic reactions to latex, some of which can be serious or life-threatening. These allergic reactions can occur when healthcare workers wear latex gloves or when they inhale cornstarch powder bound to latex proteins that has been released from latex gloves worn by others. Breathing in cornstarch powder bound to latex proteins can cause acute asthma attacks and anaphylactic shock in healthcare workers sensitized to latex.
For patients, the danger is also grave. Patients can experience the same types of allergic reactions that occur in healthcare workers. Also, when cornstarch is deposited in tissues during surgery, it can promote infections, delay healing and cause inflammation, among other injuries.
Surgical and patient examination gloves that have cornstarch powder on them or are made of natural rubber latex should be banned. When safer alternatives like powder-free, non-latex gloves, are readily available– it defies logic for the FDA to not catch up to speed on this issue.