Whenever a product is invented that is meant to replace an existing one, there is usually a debilitating reason that the older product is on its way out the door.
In the case of disposable gloves, the prevalence of latex allergies in the general population was that reason.
When that new product finally comes around, the most important question that is asked is if it has addressed the concerns presented by its predecessor. With something as important as people’s health on the line, that question is backed by pressure not seen with other contributing factors.
Nitrile gloves made their emergence during the mid-1990’s after decades of latex dominating the marketplace. Composed of synthetic materials rather than organic ones, nitrile made strides in various sections that had been needing an upgrade.
At first, sample sizes were small, and research was in its infant stages, which made gaining the trust of industries that had been using latex for a generation hard to come by. However, over the last two decades, more information has come forward proving the benefits of nitrile and addressing the ever-looming allergen question.
To make a decision on the question at hand, we first have to understand what an allergy is, what causes it, and how to prevent it.
An allergy, in simplest terms, is a reaction or sensitivity to a particular substance that causes a physiologic reaction. These reactions include but are not limited to:
Now that we know what an allergy looks like when someone experiences a reaction to one, let’s dive into how an allergy forms in the first place.
Toxins, foreign bodies and various other microbes enter our body every day. Through ingestion, inhalation and absorption. When the body’s immune system encounters one of these invaders, it triggers a defense to fight it off.
In some cases, that reaction is overblown and causes a massive release of histamine, one of the primary defense mechanisms. For people suffering from seasonal allergies, sometimes called hay fever, this histamine dump is a daily occurrence in response to pollen or other environmental factors. That’s what causes the puffy eyes, runny nose and itchy throat associated with it.
While seasonal allergies are manageable and rarely cause serious problems, other allergies, such as those to nuts, bee stings and latex can result in severe reactions causing critical emergencies and even death.
The primary point of note here is that the body can only have this histamine response to substances that have entered the body.
For the most part, the only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the allergen altogether. Any parent knows this well, as snacks that are made for school functions often have to be nut, lactose, and egg free.
Other prevention methods, such as daily medication can be used to treat the symptoms of an allergy like pollen, but they do nothing to address the allergy itself.
The other option is to create an alternative that is the same as the original product in practice, but devoid of the allergy inducing factor. Products like lactose free milk, almond butter, and canola oil have addressed this need and since the late 90’s, nitrile gloves have been addressing the latex allergy.
It’s estimated by the NIH that around 4.3% of the general population suffers from a latex allergy, that’s around 290 million people. Furthermore, 8-12% of healthcare workers have reported a latex allergy. Simply put, that’s a ton of potential victims.
Nitrile on the other hand has an allergic instance so low, it’s rarely even reported. So low in fact, that the NIH and CDC have trouble collecting sample sizes large enough to create a comprehensive report.
As we discussed earlier in the article, a potential allergen has to gain access to the body for it to cause a reaction. If a substance isn’t inhaled or ingested, and can’t be absorbed, the likelihood that it causes a reaction is severely limited.
For the sake of this article, we’ll assume that no one out there is eating or inhaling pieces of nitrile gloves, leaving absorption and the primary means of access.
Latex has been causing reactions by doing just that for decades. Latex, as a natural byproduct of the rubber tree, contains proteins found in organic life. These proteins have the correct “keycode” if you will to open the cellular doors that control what is absorbed and what isn’t.
As a synthetically derived rubber, nitrile lacks most, if not all of the key pieces to unlock these cell doors, meaning the skin and mucus membranes often block the entrance of these molecules. Since nitrile gloves and the chemical components that make them up are all but sealed off from the immune system, the chances of them causing a reaction are slim to none.
At their basic level, nitrile gloves are comprised of two chemical elements that are collections of carbon and hydrogen. You may have heard of these molecules, they’re the two most common elements found in the natural world.
In fact, we’re what biologists refer to as carbon-based life forms. Having or developing an allergy to carbon or hydrogen would be as likely as being allergic to oxygen. And at that point, you would have bigger problems than gloves.
Once those two monomers are combined, emulsified, heated and extruded, we are left with the synthetic rubber compound we know as nitrile. No common allergens are found in the composition and both chemicals have shown no ability to cause allergies in the general population.
We wish that we could sit here and guarantee that nitrile is 100% allergy free and that not a single person who uses or comes in contact with nitrile products will experience an allergy. Unfortunately, we can’t make that bold of a claim.
With over 7 billion people inhabiting the known world, it’s basically impossible to say that not a single person will ever have a reaction, but we can say with confidence that the likelihood of it occurring is very low.
With nearly twenty years of production, distribution and use throughout the world, nitrile has done its due diligence in proving its efficacy, safety and usability. While at first figuring out if nitrile would truly address the allergy dangers presented by latex was difficult, the health community now has the time and statistics to make an informed decision.
But let’s quickly address the other question presented at the beginning of this piece. Did nitrile address the problems of its predecessor? By no doubts, absolutely. Nitrile has filled the holes left by latex gloves while improving on the positives and lowering the index of allergic reaction tremendously.
Overall, it’s an all-around better product that is safer to use, lasts longer, protects against more and costs the same. We’d say that’s a win.
To learn more about nitrile gloves, their benefits or hypoallergenic qualities, call 877-898-2057. Bulk Nitrile Gloves provides professionals all over the world with the best protection at low wholesale prices. Call today and don’t forget to ask about our with bulk prices!