Safety Articles

Article # 2105

Preventing Allergic Reactions to Natural Rubber Latex in the Workplace

June 1997
DImS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-135

Composition of Latex
Latex products are manufactured from a milky fluid derived from the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. Several chemicals are added to this fluid during the processing and manufacture of commercial latex. Some proteins in latex can cause a range of mild to severe allergic reactions. Currently available methods of measurement do not provide easy or consistent identification of allergy-causing proteins (antigens) and their concentrations. Until well accepted standardized tests are available, total protein serves as a useful indicator of the exposure of concern. [Beezhold et al. 1996a]. The chemicals added during processing may also cause skin rashes. Several types of synthetic rubber are also referred to as "latex," but these do not release the prote ins that cause allergic reactions.

Products Containing Latex
A wide variety of products contain latex: medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and numerous household objects. Most people who encounter latex products only through their general use in society have no health problems from the use of these products. Workers who repeatedly use latex products are the focus of this Alert. The following are examples of products that may contain latex:

Emergency Equipment
Blood pressure cuffs
Disposable gloves
Oral and nasal airways
Endotracheal tubes
Intravenous tubing
Electrode pads

Personal Protective Equipment
Surgical masks
Rubber aprons

Office Supplies
Rubber bands

Hospital Supplies
Anesthesia masks
Wound drains
Injection ports
Rubber tops of multidose vials
Dental dams

Household Objects
Automobile tires