Archive for February 22, 2011

Latex Allergies On The Rise in Health Care Professionals

Work gloves are necessary in many occupations to protect hands from hazardous materials. Latex varieties are well suited for many different industries and settings. But for some workers, repeated exposure to latex can cause allergic reactions. The more you are exposed to latex, the higher your chances are of developing a latex allergy.  According to the NIOSH, latex allergies from occupational exposure are on the rise, especially in health care workers.

Exposure:

The two most common forms of exposure to latex are through skin contact (wearing gloves) and inhalation. Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking “I don’t sniff rubber gloves. I don’t need to worry about inhalation”. Wrong! Snapping on or removing gloves releases latex particles into the air, which can end up in your lungs.

Types of Reactions:

Symptoms can vary depending on the type of allergic reaction. Irritant Contact Dermatitis is the least serious reaction, resulting in minor irritations such as redness and itching where skin has come into contact with latex. Allergic Contact Dermatitis is a delayed reaction to the chemicals added to latex during processing, and has the same symptoms as Irritant Contact Dermatitis. Latex Hypersensitivity is the rarest and most dangerous reaction to latex, and results from inhalation of latex particles. Symptoms can range from mild to serious. A mild reaction will feel like hayfever, with sneezing, runny nose, and itchy watery eyes. More severe reactions can include difficulty breathing, chest pain, or rapid heart rate. In some cases, anaphylactic shock and death are possible without proper treatment.

Prevention:

Studies show that using  Nitrile Gloves (instead of latex gloves) is most beneficial for preventing latex allergies. However, latex gloves are usually stronger and more puncture resistant. If you must wear latex gloves, try Powder-Free Latex Gloves to reduce the amount of latex particles in the air.

Asbestos Safety

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name for a group of naturally occurring minerals that resist damage from extreme heat, electricity, and chemicals. Asbestos has been used as a flame retardant in thousands of products, such as textiles, insulation, building materials, and brakes for many years. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that scientists discovered the dangers of asbestos, linking it to thousands of cases of respiratory disease. Since then, asbestos use has been restricted, and even banned completely in some countries.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

If you looked at asbestos under a microscope, you would see tiny barbs at the ends of the fibers, which serve to anchor the fibers to lung tissue. Once inhaled, asbestos particles are nearly impossible to dislodge. The more you are exposed, the higher your chances are of developing respiratory problems, even though symptoms may not be present for decades. The two illnesses most often associated with asbestos exposure are asbestosis and mesothelioma. While some treatments have been developed for these diseases, the overall survival rate remains poor.

Prevention:

Proper use of Personal Protective Equipment has been proven to greatly reduce both primary and secondary exposure levels.

  • Clothing – Disposable protective clothing which completely covers arms, legs and hair needs to be worn at all times. Work gloves suitable for chemical handling are needed as well.
  • Respirators – A respirator rated specifically for asbestos abatement by the NIOSH should be worn at all times.
  • Disposal – All contaminated garments should be removed immediately and sealed in a plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination. Dispose of bag according to local laws and regulations.