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Powdered medical gloves a health risk
March 29, 2016, 1:22 pm

Most powdered gloves, including surgeon’s gloves, powdered patient examination gloves and absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon’s glove, pose a danger to the patient and the health professionals, says an announcement by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is proposing a ban on such gloves and powder.

The FDA says they considered all evidence and reviewed all available scientific literature and comments on the subject before proposing the ban. Powder in the form of cornstarch is sometimes added to gloves to make them easier for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to put on and take off. But, notes the FDA, there are several reasons why powdered gloves pose health risks.

One reason is that in natural rubber latex gloves, the aerosolized glove powder can carry proteins that can lead to respiratory allergic reactions. While synthetic (non-rubber) powdered gloves do not present risk of allergic reaction, the use of powder in itself is linked to a long list of potentially serious side effects, notes the FDA.

These side-effects, which include severe airway inflammation, wound inflammation and post-surgical adhesions — bands of scar tissue that form between internal organ and tissues following surgery — have been attributed to the use of glove powder in all types of gloves.

The FDA say the purpose of the ban is to remove the products from the marketplace completely, as these risks "cannot be corrected through new or updated labeling." Public Citizen, the consumer watchdog group, say the ban is 18 years too late. In a statement, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, a senior adviser with the group, says they first petitioned the FDA in 1998 to ban powdered surgical latex gloves.

He says there is no new evidence today that was not available in 1998 about the dangers posed by cornstarch powder and latex in surgical and patient examination gloves. "Had the FDA initiated the process of banning powdered medical gloves in 1998 instead of 18 years later, hundreds of thousands of health workers and patients would have been spared preventable, often life-threatening adverse reactions," he said.

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