Is Latex Paint Hazardous to Latex Allergy Sufferers?

By Donald F. Groce, Best Manufacturing Company

Don Groce is Director of Technical Services at Best Manufacturing Company, the developer of N-DEX non-latex gloves. This article appeared in the October 1996 issue of Latex Allergy News.

If I’m allergic to latex gloves, then I’m also allergic to latex paint, right? No. There is no natural rubber latex in latex paint.

Latex by definition is a water-based colloidal suspension of rubber particles. The rubber particles are not limited to natural rubber.

There are two kinds of rubber particles in latex form: natural and synthetic rubber latex. Synthetic rubber products in latex form are just as common as natural rubber latex.

Allergy to natural rubber proteins has been misnamed “latex allergy”. Gloves made from natural rubber latex have been called “latex gloves” for years.

When the incidence of latex allergies started to rise after the CDC’s Universal Precautions Statement of 1987, it did not take epidemiologists long to zero in on latex gloves as the primary cause of the condition. Hence, the name “latex allergy” was born. This term “latex allergy” implicates numerous other products which contain no natural rubber at all. Latex paint is the prime example of this paradox.

Latex paint is generally made of a water-based suspension of pigments, synthetic polymers like vinyl acrylics and acrylics with vinyl acetate and other chemicals. Various types of paint may contain vinyl acetate, polyurethane, epoxy compounds, neoprene, acrylics, styrene acrylates, and vinyl acrylics as the polymer matrix. Paints also contain pigments and chemicals that give them their coating properties.

The synthetic polymers in latex paint are made from chemicals and do not come from trees like natural rubber latex does.

One of the main reasons why natural rubber latex isn’t used to make paint is its poor weatherability and its degradation from ozone. Synthetic polymers are used in paint not because people are allergic to natural rubber latex, but because the synthetic polymers are more durable and do not yellow and degrade in the atmosphere.

This same characteristic is true for synthetic-polymer gloves such as N-DEX non-latex (100% nitrile) gloves. The nitrile polymer is more durable than natural rubber and not as damaged by weathering and other degrading elements such as ultraviolet radiation and ozone.

Most synthetic polymers were developed either when natural rubber was in short supply, such as during World War II, or because a more durable polymer was needed for outdoor environments. Nitrile is one of the synthetic polymers developed for its chemical resistance and environmental durability.

In a manufacturer’s survey, the answers were unanimous: There is no natural rubber latex used in any of their latex paints. However, before purchasing paint, you should always call the manufacturer to make sure it is latex-free. There are several very large paint manufacturers that private-label paint for the major home-improvement store chains. The chains carry these as well as the brand names. Also, if you use masking tape to protect the areas around your painting, you should be advised that masking tape may be 100% natural rubber latex.

Even though there is no natural rubber latex in latex paint, there are some known chemical sensitizers in latex paint, including: formaldehyde, amines or ammonia compounds and some of the free monomers. Formaldehyde is a known chemical sensitizer and strong irritant used in pathology and embalming. It has been shown to cause nasal tumors in rats and is used as a stabilizer in paint. There is a possibility that a healthcare provider could be sensitized to formaldehyde in an occupational setting and have symptoms whenever they encounter paint.

The bottom line is that paint purchased at your local home improvement store will not cause a natural rubber protein allergic reaction, but masking tape should be avoided by latex allergy sufferers.

It is encouraging to see government agencies working with industry representatives and manufacturers of personal protective equipment. This is a result of the OSHA final rule on personal protective equipment of 1995.

Two of NIOSH’s top research priorities for the next decade are occupational allergic and irritant dermatitis, and asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Groups are already working on allergic and irritant contact dermatitis as an occupational disease.

There is no doubt that crusaders such as Debi Adkins, Lisa Borel and members of ELASTIC have made a difference. Their voices have been heard. The forthcoming FDA resolutions for labeling will be a significant milestone for the prevention of future cases of latex allergy.

Copyright © Latex Allergy News
Reproduced here with permission.

Table of Contents

Latex Allergy Links — Main Menu

Latex Allergy Links Message Board

Toys & Baby Products — Manufacturers’ Phone Numbers

Latex Gloves in Food Operations PDF
Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services Sep 07 2001

Ever more complex;
Lawsuits and increasing regulation mount as argument over NR latex policies rages

Miles Moore Rubber & Plastics News Jul 30 2001

Living With Latex: Where to be alert for latex
Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital

Handle with care
Ben Van Houten Restaurant Business Aug 01 2000

Allergenic Cross-Reactivity of Latex and Foods
Greer Labs Technical Bulletin #10 Jan 05 2000

Latex Allergy: Another Real Y2K Issue
Lisa M. Jennings, RN CRRN Rehabilitation Nursing Jul/Aug 1999

Potential for Allergy to Natural Rubber Latex Gloves and other Natural Rubber Products
OSHA Technical Information Bulletin Apr 12 1999

Looking Out for Latex
Sandra A. Holmes Science and Children Feb 1999

The Vow of Silence
Marianne McAndrew Journal of Nursing Administration Feb 1999

The legal implications of latex allergy
Peter Kohn RN Jan 1999

Latex Allergy: Everyone’s Concern
Lawrence D. Duffield, DDS Journal of the Michigan Dental Association Jun 1998

Allergen Content of Latex Gloves.
A Market Surveillance Study of Medical Gloves Used in Finland in 1997

Palosuo, Turjanmaa, & Reinikka-Railo

User Facility Reporting Bulletin
selected articles FDA Fall 1997

Latex Allergy Alert
Christine Ozment Exceptional Parent Oct 1997

Latex gloves hand health workers a growing worry
Margaret Veach American Medical News Oct 13 1997

Living with Latex
Lisa Legge Nursing Minnesota Aug 1997

Research Review:
Association between latex sensitization and repeated latex exposure in children

Victoria M. Steelman RN, PhD(c), CNOR AORN Journal Jul 1997

Latex allergy: How safe are your gloves?
Kenneth K. Meyer, MD, FACS and Donald H. Beezhold, PhD
American College of Surgeons Bulletin Jul 1997

User Facility Reporting Bulletin
FDA Spring 1997

Latex allergy among staff poses major headache for hospitals
Meredith Goad Press Herald Portland, ME May 06 1997

Oregon picks up latex glove controversy
Patrick O’Neill The Oregonian Portland, OR Apr 21 1997

Facilities react to growing number of allergies to latex
Linda L. Mullen South Bend Tribune South Bend, IN Apr 13 1997

Growing number of HCW’s developing dangerous reactions to latex
Liz Kowalczyk The Patriot Ledger Quincy, MA Apr 01 1997

Shriners Hospital Stops Using Latex
Pat Cahill Springfield Union Springfield, MA Mar 07 1997

Latex Allergy and Contraception
The Contraception Report Patient Update Mar 1997

Is Latex Paint Hazardous To Latex Allergy Sufferers?
Don Groce Latex Allergy News Oct 1996

Cotton, Nylon, Lycra Spandex and Allergies
Don Groce Latex Allergy News Sep 1996

Paving, Asphalt, Tires & Latex Allergies
Don Groce Latex Allergy News Aug 1996

Special Bulletin: Latex Allergy
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Q & A: Latex Allergies
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Preguntas y Respuestas: Alergias al Látex
Asociación Americana de Alergia, Asma e Inmunología

Latex Allergy Survival Kit
Nancy Mitchell 1996

Downloadable/Printable Latex Allergy Signs
For personal, non-commercial use only

Pre-1996 FDA documents
Miscellaneous legislative and other documents
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