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Latex Exam Gloves

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Medical grade gloves, particularly latex exam gloves, must undergo rigorous testing and approval procedures before they can be made available for medical applications. Not only must all gloves for medical applications provide comfort and dexterity, but they also must provide significant protection from hazardous materials. Medical latex exam gloves, approximately 6 to 10 millimeters thick, must provide a barrier from possible infection from bloodborne pathogens.

In 1991, OSHA published regulations regarding the use of gloves and other protective clothing as barriers to bloodborne pathogens, and also cleared the use of natural latex rubber for barrier protection in gloves. Since then, the usage of latex in the medical industries has skyrocketed, as has the number of official regulations regarding the use of "medical" grade gloves. Currently, there are slightly different "medical grade" product standards for OSHA, the CDC, the FDA, and the NFPA.

Quality Control For Latex Exam Gloves

For the FDA, medical grade gloves can be either sterile surgeons gloves or non-sterile patient exam gloves. They test procedures for each category is similar, though slightly less rigorous for non-sterile patient exam gloves. Tensile strength, thickness, and pinhole, or leak, tests are all administered, as well as review of process and manufacturing controls.

The NFPA testing standard for medical grade gloves is stricter than even the FDA standard. In order to be NFPA certified, a glove must pass a pinhole test with an AQL (acceptable quality level) of 1.5, as well as elongation, dexterity, and protein levels tests. In addition, the glove must be able to pass a viral penetration test, resisting a surrogate microbe for the required duration. Gloves that can pass the stringent NFPA test criteria will most likely be thick, powder free, latex exam gloves.


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