| FAQ - Occupational Health & Latex Allergy - Archived Through 2012
What role does cornstarch play in latex allergies?
While the cornstarch often used as a powder to aid in donning gloves is not allergenic, it can carry latex proteins and allergenic chemicals from the glove material. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides this caution related to powdered latex gloves (1): "when powdered gloves are worn, more latex protein reaches the skin. Also, when gloves are changed, latex protein/powder particles get into the air, where they can be inhaled and contact body membranes … (2). In contrast, work areas where only powder-free gloves are used show low levels or undetectable amounts of the allergy-causing proteins (3,4)."
(1) DHHS. NIOSH Alert. Preventing Allergic Reactions to Natural Rubber Latex in the Workplace. June 1997. Publication No. 97-135
(2) Heilman DK, Jones RT, Swanson MC, Yunginger JW. A prospective, controlled study showing that rubber gloves are the major contributor to latex aeroallergen levels in the operating room. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1996;98(2):325-330.
(3) Tarlo SM, Sussman G, Contala A, Swanson MC. Control of airborne latex by use of powder-free latex gloves. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1994;93: 985-989.
(4) Swanson MC, Bubak ME, Hunt LW, Yunginger JW, Warner MA, Reed CE. Quantification of occupational latex aeroallergens in a medical center. JAllergy Clin Immunol 1994;94(3): 445-551.