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.