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Latex Allergy

Allergy to latex was first recognized in the late 1970s. Since then, it has become a major health concern as an increased number of people in the workplace are affected. Health care workers exposed to latex gloves or medical products containing latex are especially at risk. It is estimated that 8-12% of health care workers are latex sensitive. Between 1988-1992, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) received more than 1,000 reports of adverse health effects from exposure to latex, including 15 deaths due to such exposure.

As used in this topic, latex refers to the natural rubber latex manufactured from a milky fluid that is primarily obtained from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). Some synthetic rubber materials may be referred to as "latex" but do not contain the natural rubber proteins responsible for latex allergy symptoms.

Latex allergy is addressed in specific standards for the general industry.

OSHA Standards

This section highlights OSHA standards and standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards) related to latex allergy.

Note: Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Standard Interpretations

Hazard Recognition

The following references aid in recognizing latex hazards in the workplace.

  • Potential for Sensitization and Possible Allergic Reaction To Natural Rubber Latex Gloves and other Natural Rubber Products. OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB), (2008, January 28). Alerts field personnel, employees and employers about issues regarding sensitization and allergic reactions that have occurred in some individuals using natural rubber latex (NRL) products, particularly gloves, in the workplace setting.

  • Occupational Latex Allergies. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topic. Describes latex allergies and includes links to What's New Regarding Latex Allergies, NIOSH Publications on Latex Allergies, and Other Latex Allergy-Related Resources and Links.

  • Medical Glove Powder Report. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), (1998, January 7). Discusses potential adverse health effects of glove powder and latex allergy.

  • Reddy S. "Latex Allergy." American Family Physician. 1998 Jan 1;57(1):93-100. Contains a general overview of latex allergy, latex origin, allergic reactions and symptoms, and those at risk. Also, provides a Patient Information Handout.

Possible Solutions

In order to make an impact in reducing latex allergy exposures in the workplace, more than just hazard recognition needs to occur. After performing an exposure assessment, preventative measures for worker safety should be implemented. The following documents provide safety and health information regarding latex allergy prevention.

  • Home Healthcare Workers: How to Prevent Latex Allergies [565 KB PDF, 2 pages]. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2012-119, (2012, February).

  • Latex Allergy, A Prevention Guide. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 98-113, (1998). Provides a guide to latex allergy prevention, set in a question and answer format.

  • Preventing Allergic Reactions to Natural Rubber Latex in the Workplace. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-135, (1997, June). A Spanish version is also available. Contains recommendations for employers and employees to help minimize latex allergy reactions and exposures, including a worker warning sheet for latex allergy that can be copied and posted.

  • 21 CFR 801.437 - User labeling for devices that contain natural rubber. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Regulation, (Revised April 1, 2012). States actual wording required by the FDA for the labeling of medical devices that contain natural rubber latex. Also, states that labeling of natural rubber latex devices may no longer use the term "hypoallergenic." These requirements apply to all devices composed of or containing, or having packaging or components composed of or containing, natural rubber that contacts humans.

  • Latex Allergy: A Guide to Prevention. State of New Jersey Department of Health, Occupational Health Surveillance Unit. Provides a brochure for prevention of latex allergy adapted from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) guide.

Additional Information

Related Safety and Health Topics Pages

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