Incidence of latex sensitization among latex glove users.
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BACKGROUND: Although there are several reports of the prevalence of latex sensitization among health care workers, the incidence of sensitization is unknown. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to estimate the incidence of sensitization among latex glove users at a hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. METHODS: Workers with negative results to the skin test at baseline were followed prospectively over 1 year, some wearing powdered gloves and others using powder-free gloves. They were reevaluated in 1995 with a questionnaire and skin prick test (SPT) sensitivity to latex reagents, three common inhalants, and six foods. A conversion was defined as a (new) latex SPT with wheal diameter at least 4 mm greater than saline control. Glove extracts were assayed for antigenic protein, and air samples were obtained to estimate exposure to airborne latex protein. RESULTS: During powdered glove use, personal exposures ranged from 5 to 616 ng/m3, whereas during powder-free glove use, all but two results for air samples were below the limit of detection (about 0.1 ng/m3). During the study period, the protein concentration in the powdered gloves, initially mean 557 microg/gm of sample, declined at a rate of 295 microg/gm per year (p < 0.0001). Of the 1075 SPT-negative participants at baseline, 479 were working in eligible wards, and of these, 435 (91%) participated in follow-up, 227 using powder-free gloves and 208 using powdered gloves. We identified four conversions, two (1.0%) in the powdered glove group and two (0.9%) in the powder-free group. The two participants using powdered gloves were the only converters who were symptomatic. The significance of skin test conversions identified in the powder-free group, both asymptomatic patients, is unclear. The limitations of the study are discussed, including the limited power, the declines in latex protein concentrations, and the possibility of information (observer) bias. CONCLUSION: To our knowledge, this represents the first reported estimate (about 1%) of incidence of sensitization in hospital personnel using latex gloves.
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