WASHINGTON—Public Citizen's call for a ban on natural rubber latex medical gloves is unnecessary and could prove harmful to patients and health care workers alike, the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council said.
The current use of low-protein, low-allergen latex surgical and examination gloves is consistent with recommendations from the most important public health agencies and organizations in the U.S., according to the MREPC.
These organizations include the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and the American Nurses Association, the MREPC said.
Public Citizen, a national consumer advocacy group, filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration April 25 calling for a total ban on powdered and natural rubber latex gloves for medical use.
The continuing crisis with latex allergies among patients and health care workers make it imperative that natural rubber latex be removed completely from health care, according to Public Citizen.
However, the MREPC said a ban is completely uncalled for. The low levels of protein and powder in today's improved latex gloves means most health care professionals and patients can use them confidently without fear of developing allergies, it said. As for those already sensitized, alternatives such as nitrile are readily available.
“Although latex-free alternatives may be available, their barrier capacity to protect against infectious micro-organisms is not as good as natural rubber latex gloves, as demonstrated by numerous studies,” the MREPC said.
Some 2 million people suffer hospital-acquired infections every year, leading to 90,000 deaths and $5 billion in unnecessary health care costs, the MREPC said.
“Banning the use of latex gloves would deprive health care professionals and the patients they serve of the best barrier protection available,” it said.
The MREPC is an agency under Malaysia's Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities. Its purpose is to support research and enhance technical support for a wide range of Malaysian rubber products, and also to disseminate facts and information about natural rubber.