Latex gloves offer a unique blend of comfort and protection. Resistant to puncturing, these gloves serve as an optimal barrier against biological contaminants. Latex is also widely considered to provide the greatest fit of any disposable.
Allergy concerns remain latex’s biggest drawback. Some states have banned the use of latex gloves in food service, and an increasing number of healthcare providers have switched to an alternative glove type.
Latex gloves are available in surgical grade, exam grade, foodservice grade, and industrial grade, both sterile and non-sterile.
ASTM D3577, D3578, and D4679, are widely considered the benchmarks of quality for latex surgical, exam, and industrial grade gloves respectively. Surgical and examination grade latex gloves are also regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (21 CFR 800.20), although the standards set forth by the FDA generally mirror those of ASTM.
When in direct contact with food, glove components must comply with the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).
Latex gloves are suitable for a wide variety of applications because of their strong combination of barrier protection and chemical resistance.
Despite concerns over latex allergy, latex gloves remain the glove of choice for surgical procedures by most healthcare providers. Usage in foodservice, however, has substantially diminished in recent years as the cost of latex grows and as an increasing number of states adopt regulations prohibiting use of the gloves for food preparation.
Latex gloves are most commonly white in color, but are also sold in black, blue, and an assortment of other colors. White is typically used in healthcare applications to reflect the sanitary environment.
Latex gloves are made of natural rubber latex, a milky sap-like substance derived from rubber trees (Havea Basiliensis). Growers tap the tree to allow the latex to drip into collection containers.
Efforts to develop natural alternatives to Havea Basiliensis which do not pose the same allergy risks are underway, but have yet to experience widespread success in the marketplace.
Country of Origin
Because natural rubber latex is primarily grown in Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia are the leading producers of latex gloves.