The Food and Drug Administration has banned powdered gloves for use in health care settings, citing “numerous risks to patients and health care workers.” The ban extends to gloves currently in commercial distribution and in the hands of the ultimate user, meaning powdered gloves will have to be pulled from examination rooms and operating theaters.

“A thorough review of all currently available information supports FDA’s conclusion that powdered surgeon’s gloves, powdered patient examination gloves, and absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon’s glove should be banned,” according to a FDA final rule available now online and scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on Dec. 19, 2016. The ban will become effective 30 days after the document’s publication in the Federal Register.

Specific risks of powdered gloves cited by the FDA in support of the ban include health care worker and patient sensitization to latex, the risk of peritoneal adhesions if the powder comes in contact with exposed tissue during surgery, and other adverse events related to the inflammatory response that glove powder can provoke. Severe airway inflammation, asthma, conjunctivitis, and dyspnea have all been associated with powdered glove use.

Notes the final document, “The benefits of powdered gloves appear to only include greater ease of donning and doffing, decreased tackiness, and a degree of added comfort, which FDA believes are nominal when compared to the risks posed by these devices.”

Since viable nonpowdered alternatives exist, the FDA believes that the ban would not have significant economic impact and that shortages should not affect care delivery.

Many nonpowdered gloves, said the FDA, now “have the same level of protection, dexterity, and performance” as powdered gloves.

Powder may still be used in the glove manufacturing process, but the FDA continues to recommend that no more than 2 mg of residual powder per glove remains after the manufacturing process.

Though the final document banning powdered gloves notes that the FDA received many comments asking for a ban of all natural rubber latex (NRL) gloves, the ban applied only to powdered gloves. The FDA noted that NRL gloves already must carry a statement alerting users to the risks of allergic reaction, and also noted that eliminating powder from NRL gloves reduces the risk of latex sensitization.

In explaining its analysis of the costs and benefits of the powdered glove ban, the FDA estimated that the annual net benefits would range between $26.8 million and $31.8 million.

When this ban comes into force, it will be only the second such ban; the first was the 1983 ban of prosthetic hair fibers, which were found to provide no public health benefit.

On Twitter @karioakes


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