For decades, powder has been used in the manufacturing of medical gloves, making them easier to put on and remove. The most commonly used powders are cornstarch and calcium carbonate. Before the 1970s, they used talc. When powdered gloves are used in an operating room, over 2kg of glove powder is released into the air each year.
Exposure to starch powder causes allergy symptoms and upper respiratory-tract infections to irritation of the central nervous system. Another common problem with using powdered gloves is the development of adhesions, mostly in the abdominal cavity, but also in many other parts of the body. Glove powder enters the body during surgery, despite glove washing, and triggers inflammatory response by the immune system. Between 69-93% of adhesions were caused from foreign particles, including starch powder. Researchers have found that the powdered gloves increase the risk of post-operative wound infections and delay wound healing by increasing the wound’s inflammatory response. Switching to a powder-free environment may have cost savings in reduced personnel sickness and post-operative complications.
These allergic responses were known about in 1998, when 75% of surgical gloves contained cornstarch. Most powdered gloves have been phased out, while only six manufacturers remain in business. The FDA has recently proposed a ban on surgical gloves with powder citing the health risks to patients and medical workers. There are many non-powdered protective gloves available. The FDA is accepting comments from the public for the next 90 days before the ban will be finalized.
“Hazards of Powdered Gloves.” Ansell Healthcare Europe. Web. 22 Mar 2016.
Perrone, Matthew. “FDA moves to ban most powdered surgical gloves.” Business. The Seattle Times, 21 Mar 2016. Web. 22 Mar 2016.