True Fit

All gloves are not created equal. The "one glove fits all" concept often falls short of providing the health-care professional with the best-suited glove for the job. When selecting gloves, particular attention must be paid to potential hazards or workplace situations. Choosing the appropriate hand protection requires a full understanding of the environment.

The size of a glove only reflects how large or small the hand is.

Several factors affect a glove`s `true fit.`

Tito Aldape

All gloves are not created equal. The "one glove fits all" concept often falls short of providing the health-care professional with the best-suited glove for the job. When selecting gloves, particular attention must be paid to potential hazards or workplace situations. Choosing the appropriate hand protection requires a full understanding of the environment.

In recent years, the potential for exposure or infection related to blood-borne pathogens, contaminated bodily fluids, and harsh chemicals used in health-care environments has necessitated the use of protective barriers. Medical gloves provide a primary form of barrier protection against these hazards. However, because there is no single type of medical glove best-suited to all applications, the glove supplier is charged with a formidable task of meeting the hand protection and barrier protection needs of all glove wearers in the health-care environment. What`s more, medical gloves are continually subjected to more stringent regulatory and quality guidelines set forth by FDA and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). This creates growing demands on the medical glove industry to substantiate data and provide higher quality products.

Medical gloves for health-care, laboratory, and clinical applications are generally made from either natural rubber latex (NRL) or synthetic elastomeric materials. The quality of raw materials, manufacturing formulations, and manufacturing processes directly affect the consistency of glove properties and overall performance. Therefore, each glove type has a different barrier integrity to hazardous exposures: NRL offers barrier protection to biological contaminants; synthetics offer a broad range of chemical resistance. The in-use performance of each glove type also varies widely. Vinyl gloves have been reported to exhibit the largest in-use leakage rates. Synthetic products are necessary in latex-free workplace environments, or for individuals who are latex sensitive. It is this type of information that must be considered when selecting and purchasing medical gloves.

It is easy to see why the relationship between medical glove supplier and buyer has never been more critical. The decision to purchase medical gloves requires a thorough understanding of technical glove data, appropriate applications for glove use, glove types, and vendor accessibility. For these reasons, health-care organizations have a responsibility to partner with a knowledgeable and service-oriented medical glove provider. Suppliers must be fully aware of the concerns and needs of their customers with regard to each health-care function, and they must be committed to providing superior latex and synthetic medical gloves.

Tito Aldape is vice president of QA/RA and scientific affairs at Microflex Corp.

References available upon request.

Materials in medical gloves

Natural rubber is an elastic material that comes from the tapping of rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) and collecting its sap. Natural rubber is often used in the production of soft thin-walled products with high strength, such as balloons and medical gloves.

Latex is a milky-like substance in which natural rubber, synthetic rubber, or plastic is suspended in a solution. Latex is a generic term used to describe a polymer material in a liquid form. Within the health-care and medical glove industries, the term "latex" has been categorically used to refer to natural rubber latex, a reference that is technically limiting.

n Natural rubber latex (NRL) is an elastic material that is prepared by using the collected sap from the natural rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). NRL prepared from collected sap from optimized strains of the rubber tree have been reported to render a more predictable raw material. Many products and medical devices (including gloves) are manufactured with NRL. It is a highly durable and flexible material that provides a high measure of protection against many blood-borne pathogens and environmental contaminants.

n Poly-chloroprene is the generic name for Neoprene, a trade name owned by DuPont(r). Poly-chloroprene is a synthetic rubber with outstanding resistance to ozone, weathering, oil, and many chemicals. Medical gloves made from poly-chloroprene are more soft, elastic, and comfortable than gloves made from other synthetic materials.

n Nitrile rubber is a synthetic elastic material noted for its oil resistance. Nitrile rubber is used to produce gloves that offer resistance to many chemicals. Products made from nitrile rubber are generally less elastic than products made from poly-chloroprene or natural rubber latex. As a result, gloves made from nitrile tend to be less comfortable.

n Vinyl is a synthetic plastic material. Depending on the manufacturing process, it can be used to make flexible or rigid molded products. Some examples of vinyl products include food wrapping films, gloves, and plumbing pipes.

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