Natural rubber latex disposable gloves typically get most of the attention when it comes to allergies, but allergic reactions are also possible with synthetic glove materials like nitrile butadiene rubber and polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl). While allergies to these materials themselves are uncommon, the chemicals used in the production processes are common causes.
During the production of nitrile and vinyl gloves, manufacturers use various substances to turn the base ingredients into the final glove materials. These chemicals are in both the process to form the actual PVC and nitrile and to turn these materials into gloves.
To create vinyl, for example, petroleum is used in the manufacturing process. Petroleum is used to create naphtha, which is combined with other chemicals to form ethylene. The ethylene is combined with chlorine, and through two more transformations, this combination becomes polyvinyl chloride.
With latex gloves, the allergic reactions usually stem from the proteins in the latex. With synthetics, the issue lies with the petroleum. While rare, petroleum allergies do occur in some individuals.
As a result of contact with the glove materials, individuals with petroleum allergies experience contact dermatitis, which may lead to skin irritation, hives, redness and blistering in more extreme cases. Respiratory effects, such as throat itching, coughing and wheezing, appear with allergic reactions to petroleum gas but not commonly with petroleum-based gloves.
“If certain individuals wear a glove that is too-tight, the skin will not be able to breathe inside the glove which may cause an irritation.”
Acknowledging indirect causes of irritation
Although petroleum allergies are rare, some nitrile and vinyl glove wearers will experience contact dermatitis. However, this reaction does not always occur because of the glove materials.
One common issue is an irritative substance on the hands. Certain substances, such as residual hand soap or a scented lotion, will not cause too much of a problem on an exposed hand, but the associated reaction to it will be more pronounced in some individuals when they have a glove pressing the substance to their skin.
This issue is more evident when a glove is too small. Overall, too-tight gloves create irritation and discomfort as the skin is unable to breathe inside the glove.
Key points about glove material allergies
Whether it is latex, nitrile or vinyl, glove users must ensure they have the right gloves for the job. This applies to selecting the right material for the application as well as the appropriate size.
Additionally, as individuals and employers attempt to accommodate allergies, they must also consider how the alternative glove materials will fare in their work environments. Learn more about glove material allergies by talking to an expert.