Public Citizen warns against latex medical gloves

It took decades for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be swayed, but consumer watchdog group Public Citizen was at the helm of the movement to persuade the FDA to ban the prescription painkillers Darvocet and Darvon (propoxyphene) due to serious health risks. The FDA rejected both petitions submitted by Public Citizen over the years, but new studies that showed the drugs caused dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities finally convinced the federal agency that the risks associated with Darvocet and Darvon far outweighed the benefits. Now the watchdog group is taking aim at another medical product – latex medical gloves.

Public Citizen petitioned the FDA arguing that surgical and patient examination gloves have cornstarch powder on them or are made of natural rubber latex can pose a danger to patients and medical workers alike. The group contends that the risks posed by the gloves have been widely recognized throughout the medical profession and the world for years and are indisputable. Public Citizen is calling for safer, equally effective substitutes.

For health care workers, the major risk is allergic reaction to latex when the gloves are worn, some of which can be serious or even life threatening. Allergic reactions and asthma attacks can occur when the cornstarch powder inside the gloves is inhaled. Patients can also experience the same type of allergic reactions to latex and cornstarch, and have the added risk of the cornstarch powder getting into tissues during surgery, which can cause infections and inflammation, and delay healing.

The FDA has rejected Public Citizen’s petition to ban latex medical gloves, but the group refuses to back down. The group argues that since its petition was rejected, more evidence has accumulated that underscores the dangers of latex gloves. The group is asking the FDA not to make the same mistake that it did with Darvocet and Darvon by delaying the ban of latex gloves. Consumers’ lives are at risk.