Phthalates are chemicals used in the product of PVC, which stands for polyvinyl chloride. Phthalates are used to give certain plastic products a stretchy property to it. Phthalates are used in the manufacturing of vinyl examination gloves. It is important for medical gloves to be flexible and have a soft feel so healthcare workers can properly go about their business. With the creation of PVC, the exam glove industry was able to produce quality synthetic gloves that are extremely cost-effective. Compared to latex or nitrile, vinyl remains the cheapest material due to lower raw material costs. Demand for cheap synthetic medical gloves skyrocketed due to increased pressure on hospitals to move to a latex-free environment and increased pressure to control costs. Vinyl synthetic gloves became the industry’s answer to the cheapest, latex-free synthetic glove.
There is no exam glove that is without health risk to everyone. Wearing gloves is not natural and there are many chemicals that are used to manufacture gloves. However, manufacturers are aware of this and have minimized the risks by using material that people will have minimal reactions. It’s the same with everything you purchase… there is always a risk. Most major glove have switched to alternative plasticizers in their synthetic gloves and banned the use of DEHP phthalates.
Phthalate poisoning is typically caused by ingestion of material that is composed of phthalates. In addition, tests have shown that infants are more likely to be victims of poisoning than adults. Knowing this, we can be smart about minimizing the risks of phthalates.
If you are still concerned, you can always convert to using nitrile exam gloves to eliminate possible phthalate poisoning caused by gloves. However, this is not cost effective for all facilities. Another approach is to substitute the vinyl exam gloves in areas catered to infants and children like NICUs and PICUs.
Vinyl synthetic exam gloves are still the cost effective approach for hospitals. Given today’s technology improvements in exam gloves, vinyl gloves provide comparable protection to latex gloves and can be used in most healthcare environments. Although the risks of phthalates are getting more attention in the media, this is primarily due to children being poisoned by swallowing pieces of plastic toys. Good education to healthcare workers can minimize risks associated with phthalate.