Effective January 18, 2017, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed a ban on powdered patient examination gloves, powdered surgical gloves, and also on powder for lubricating a surgeon’s gloves. The FDA ban also applies to veterinary use such as veterinary clinical care and animal surgery centers. Powder is sometimes added to gloves to help make it easier to put them on and take them off. The FDA has determined that the benefits of using powder are minimal compared to the health risks the substance poses to patients and health care workers.
The FDA ban is based on findings of the risks from exposure to the powder. The level and types of risk presented by powdered gloves varies depending on the type of glove and on how the gloves are used. For example, glove powder dispersed into air from natural rubber latex gloves can carry proteins that may cause respiratory allergic reactions. Powdered synthetic (such as nitrile) gloves do not present the risk of allergic reactions. However, they are associated with health risks, including severe airway inflammation, wound inflammation, and post-surgical adhesions, which are bands of fibrous scar tissue that form between internal organs and tissues. These health risks have been attributed to the use of glove powder with all types of gloves.
Some major distributors of gloves such as Fisher Scientific have decided to no longer carry any powder-containing gloves. Although the ban does not extend to non-clinical settings such as laboratories, EH&S strongly encourages University departments to replace all powdered gloves with non-powder gloves due to the elevated health risks. If you have any questions or need assistance with glove selection, contact an EH&S occupational health and safety specialist at 206.543.7388.