Government never has been known to act at the speed of light, but sometimes the delays just boggle the mind. Take the Food and Drug Administration's proposal to ban most powdered medical gloves in the U.S.
The issue dates back to the 1980s, when the AIDS crisis hit the U.S. When fears about how the disease was transferred, it led to boom times for glove makers as health care workers were urged to take appropriate precautions to prevent exposure to HIV and other bloodborne pathogens.
This also brought on increased protein allergies and potential severe respiratory reactions. It was found that the powder used to more easily put the gloves on was a key factor in these attacks.
Consumer advocate group Public Citizen first filed for a ban on powdered gloves in 1998. But while the FDA said it knew about the associated health risks at the time, it decided not to pursue a ban based on the “totality of the information” available at the time.
Fast forward a decade, and the FDA received three more petitions between 2008 and 2011—including another from Public Citizen—again requesting the ban. Because of these, the FDA reviewed new data on powdered gloves and in February 2011 requested comments related to the risks and benefits of the gloves.
So now was the time the governmental agency was ready to spring forth into action. Well, not exactly.
From that point—now five years and 285 comments later—the FDA finally has issued its proposed rule to issue the ban.
At this point, the development comes almost as a non-event to glove makers, as alternatives to powdered gloves are now common in the market. Showa Best doesn't do much in powdered gloves; Top Gloves exports powdered gloves to the U.S. only for non-medical uses; and Ansell has researched latex allergies since 1992 and has many non-powdered options.
For its part, Public Citizen claimed there is no new scientific information available now that wasn't known in 1998, so hundreds of thousands of health care workers have needlessly been exposed to the risk over the past 18 years.
Stay tuned for this news flash in 2021: “FDA enacts powdered glove ban.”
Meyer is editor of Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @bmeyerRPN.