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The Evolution of Latex Glove Litigation and Regulations
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The Evolution of Latex Glove Litigation and Regulations

Latex Allergies

During the emergence of the AIDs crisis, personal protective equipment [PPE], such as latex gloves, was mandated to control the spread of a viral infection. Some of the products were manufactured containing Natural Rubber Latex [NRL] which caused an allergic reaction. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, medical gloves were employed almost universally in the healthcare setting to prevent infection.

Latex allergy symptoms include hives, itching, and stuffy or running nose. It can cause asthma symptoms, including anaphylaxis, a serious medical; condition that can cause difficulty breathing and a fall in blood pressure. Additional dermatological conditions include allergic contact dermatitis and eczema, and blisters. Food allergies are commonly associated with people who suffer from latex reactions, including apples, avocados, bananas, celery, and tomatoes.

A blood test is utilized to confirm the diagnosis of latex sensitivity.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LITIGATION
Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of workers' compensation claims filed against employers on behalf of individuals who have suffered latex allergic reactions. See 
Helland v. Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hosp., 601 NW 2d 318 - Wis: Court of Appeals 1999, and workers' compensation decision Claim No. 1996030302 April 23, 2003 (Westlaw citation 2003 WL 21054452 (Wis.Lab.Ind.Rev.Com.), Morris v. Nebraska Health System, 664 NW 2d 436 - Neb: Supreme Court 2003, St. Luke's Midland Regional v. Kennedy, 653 NW 2d 880 - SD: Supreme Court 2002, Dunbar v Hospital of University of Pennsylvania, Westlaw citation 2002 WL 31681349 (SD 2002).

Furthermore, many claims were filed against the manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors of latex gloves and products. The claims filed in the Federal District court throughout the United States have been joined in one action for pretrial management and discovery by a Multi-District Litigation Order issued by the court. In re Latex Gloves Product Liability Litigation, MDL #1148 (Terminated 2005). See In re Latex Gloves Products Liability Litigation, 152 F. Supp. 2d 667 - Dist. Court, ED Pennsylvania 2001, Collins v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 949 F. Supp. 1143 - Dist. Court, D. New Jersey 1996,  28 U.S.C. § 2112

US FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION
“On December 19, 2016, the FDA published a final rule banning powdered gloves based on the unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury to individuals exposed to the powdered gloves. The risks to patients and health care providers when internal body tissue is exposed to the powder include severe airway inflammation and hypersensitivity reactions. Powder particles may also trigger the body's immune response, causing tissue to form around the particles (granulomas) or scar tissue formation (adhesions), which can lead to surgical complications.” See, Banned Devices; Powdered Surgeon's Gloves, Powdered Patient Examination Gloves, and Absorbable Powder for Lubricating a Surgeon's Glove 81 FR 91722. Effective January 18, 2017.

US OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ADMINISTRATION
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration [OSHA] of the United States Department of Labor estimates that 8-12% of healthcare workers are sensitive. The FDA received more than 1,000 reports of adverse health effects from exposure to latex, including 15 deaths from latex glove exposure. OSHA issued a General Industry Standard (29 CFR 1920) to regulate latex glove use in the workplace.

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By Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ. He is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 jon@gelmans.com have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

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