That water leakage rates and protection against blood-borne pathogens should not vary as a function of latex content among Food and Drug Administration–approved gloves, allowing avoidance of unnecessary latex exposure.
Eighteen different glove types were purchased and tested using the American Society for Testing Methods Standard Test for Detecting Holes in medical gloves, which involves mounting the glove on a plastic tube, pouring a liter of tap water into the glove, and visually inspecting the glove initially and after 2 minutes. Half of the gloves were tested straight from the package and half after a standardized manipulation.
Eleven sterile glove types (5 high latex content, 4 low latex content, and 2 nonlatex content), and 7 non-sterile examination glove types (2 high latex content, 2 low latex content, and 3 non-latex content) were tested (total tested, 3720 gloves). Leakage rates were greater for examination than for surgical gloves (relative risk [RR], 1.41, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01-1.96), for manipulated than for unused gloves (RR, 2.89, 5% CI, 1.98-4.22), and for low latex content surgical gloves (RR, 2.58, 95% CI, 1.35-4.92) or non-latex content surgical gloves (RR, 4.93, 95% CI, 2.35-10.32) than for high latex content surgical gloves. Significant differences were observed among low latex content surgical gloves (P≤.001) and all types of examination gloves (P = .0015) especially after the standardized manipulation (leakage rates ranging from 0%-30%).
Food and Drug Administration approval should not be interpreted as suggesting equality of different manufacturers’ products. Some low latex and non-latex content gloves are very resistant to leakage and should provide an effective barrier for preventing exposure to blood-borne pathogens, while others may not.