OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

October 3, 1997

Renee Duff
Kaiser Permanente
2101 East Jefferson Street
Floor 7 East
Rockville, MD 20852-6095A

Dear Ms. Duff;

This letter is in response to your letter of August 12th requesting clarification on the appropriate gloves to be worn against glutaraldehyde. Specifically, you requested OSHA's opinion on the use of latex surgical exam gloves for protection from glutaraldehyde.

Glutaraldehyde is an irritant to the eyes, lungs and skin and a sensitizer to some individuals. When handling glutaraldehyde solutions, gloves which are impervious to glutaraldehyde should be worn. Gloves made of Butyl Rubber, Nitrile, and Viton® have been shown to provide full shift protection from glutaraldehyde. For shorter exposures, gloves made of polyethylene can also be used. Neoprene and PVC gloves should not be used. They do not provide adequate protection against glutaraldehyde and may actually absorb it.

Latex surgical exam gloves should not be used for skin protection against glutaraldehyde, except in situations where only short-term, incidental contact is expected. Union Carbide tests on latex gloves against glutaraldehyde have shown breakthrough in less than 45 minutes with the standard 2% to 3.4% solutions usually used for disinfecting. Therefore, if latex gloves are used with these solutions, it is recommended that they be changed frequently (i.e. every 10 to 15 minutes) to ensure that there is no permeation of glutaraldehyde. Double gloving is also recommended to provide greater protection. Suitability can vary considerably between styles and manufacturers of latex gloves.

Latex gloves themselves may present their own hazards. They have been associated with dermatitis, sensitization and allergic reactions. When feasible, their use should be limited as much as possible. It is the employers responsibility to select the appropriate hand protection based on an evaluation of the tasks to be performed. You should consult the manufacturer of any gloves, if they are expected to be used for handling glutaraldehyde, for the suitability of their gloves for chemical protection and the recommended time they can be expected to be safely worn.

Thank you for your interest in safety and health. If you need additional information, please contact Craig Moulton at (202) 219-8036, Extension 37.


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs