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Last Updated June 2020

Finding the Right Glove

Wearing gloves when handling hazardous materials is part of the job for many scientists and researchers. The importance of wearing protective gear maybe a no-brainer for them, but few understand the risks of not wearing the right fitting gloves.

A man wearing Kimtech purple nitrile gloves while performing a lab experiment.

“If you ask a room full of scientists, ‘How many of you were trained on how to select or pick out a glove?’” says Anita McLean, North America Scientific Category Leader Kimberly-Clark Professional. “Not one will raise their hand."

The only thing separating scientists’ hands from the toxic materials they work with is the glove. But proper glove fit isn’t always addressed in academic or professional settings. "In any chemistry class I’ve taken, no one ever discussed proper glove use with us,” McLean recalls.

“Believe it or not, the glove business is a very passionate business,” McLean shares. “When it comes to your hands, people tend to be very particular about what they use.”

Latex Vs Nitrile Gloves

Latex is one of the most recognizable material types, but gloves made from nitrile can ensure an even greater level of safety in some situations. Latex originates in the liquid of rubber trees found in areas like Thailand and Malaysia. Allergies to latex proteins are common, making nitrile gloves a popular alternative because they are made from the nonallergenic, synthetic byproduct of oil and latex.

Since latex gloves revert to their original shape once they’re removed, it can be nearly impossible to spot pin-size holes. “[But] with nitrile gloves you will see a tear in the glove,” McLean explains. “It is designed so that you can see where you are at risk of being contaminated.”

According to McLean, the FDA has several requirements before a glove can be sold. For instance, a glove needs to meet the FDA's minimum requirements for pinholes (AQL 2.5), which is the minimum pinhole level the manufacturer must meet to be considered a medical glove. If it does not, the FDA can put a hold on those gloves until the problem is fixed.

Professionals who work in some health care environments must also be sure that their gloves have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Indeed, medical exam gloves are subject to a battery of rigorous trials before they can be deemed medical-grade and sold with the word “exam” on the box.

Implementing Best Practices

Given how entrenched researchers can be in their work, McLean acknowledges it can be difficult for them to find the time to stay on top of the best practices for glove use. But Kimberly-Clark Professional’s APEX program serves as an instructional course for customers using Kimberly-Clark Professional gloves in their facilities. APEX, which stands for ‘Alignment’ ‘Project Management’ ‘Engagement’ and ‘Exceptional Workplaces’ is a complimentary program where users are appropriately fitted with new gloves, trained on any relevant materials and given the opportunity to raise questions or concerns they may have about switching to new gloves.

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