After signaling its intentions for years, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today unveiled a proposal to ban most powdered medical gloves to guard against multiple health threats to clinicians and patients alike.The proposed ban applies to powdered surgeons’ gloves and the absorbable powder for lubricating them, as well as powdered gloves for patient examinations. Both synthetic gloves and those manufactured from natural rubber latex (NRL) are covered.


A ban was the FDA’s only choice because “no change in labeling could correct the risk of illness or injury” posed by powdered gloves, according to the agency’s proposal.

Surgical gloves debuted in operating rooms in 1889, and from the start, all sorts of lubricants were used to make them easier to don.

  • The first one was a powder made from the spores of plants called ground pines or club moss. Found to be toxic, this material gave way to talcum powder.
  • Talcum powder out to cause postoperative complications such as granulomas and scar tissue adhesions connecting internal organs and tissues.
  • The healthcare industry gradually switched from talcum powder to cornstarch. Research showed it to be just as problematic, if not more so. With NRL gloves, aerosolized cornstarch can transport latex proteins capable of triggering respiratory allergic reactions, according to the FDA.
  • Other adverse events include severe airway inflammation, wound inflammation, granulomas, and postoperative adhesions, all of which occur with synthetic as well as NRL gloves dusted in cornstarch.                                                         In the meantime, professional groups such as the American College of Surgeons, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and the American Nurses Association were taking stands against powdered gloves. Government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joined the chorus, as did the healthcare systems of Germany and the United Kingdom.

The proposal to ban most powdered medical gloves will be officially published soon.


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Cynthia Isuekebhor