Latex glove use among healthcare workers in Australia

Published:April 17, 2018DOI:


      • Latex gloves were used by 22% of Australian workers.
      • Occupations with the highest use of latex gloves included carers and hairdressers.
      • 63% of healthcare workers used latex gloves, and 26% wore powdered latex gloves.
      • Latex gloves were more commonly used by healthcare workers in micro companies.
      • Latex exposure in healthcare workers contributed 3% of the asthma-related burden.


      Exposure to natural rubber latex, primarily through the use of gloves, is a well-recognized cause of occupational asthma. We investigated latex glove use among Australian workers and estimated the resultant burden of occupational asthma among healthcare workers (HCWs).


      Data were collected in 2014 as part of the Australian Work Exposures Study-Asthma, a telephone survey investigating the prevalence of current occupational exposure to asthmagens, including latex. We estimated adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) to determine variables associated with the use of latex gloves among HCWs and calculated the asthma-related disability-adjusted life years due to latex exposure among HCWs.


      Latex gloves were used by 22% of respondents. Almost two-thirds (63%) of HCWs reported wearing latex gloves, with 26% using powdered latex gloves. The use of latex gloves was more common among those employed in micro companies (less than 5 employees) than large companies (200+ employees) (aPR = 1.5, 95% confidence interval 1.1-2.0). Latex exposure in HCWs was estimated to contribute 3% of the total asthma-related burden.


      Latex gloves are widely used by Australian workers and by HCWs in particular.


      This is the first estimate of the burden of asthma attributable to occupational exposure to latex among HCWs. These results can be used to guide decisions regarding the control of occupational exposure to latex.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to American Journal of Infection Control
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Filon F.L.
        • Bochdanovits L.
        • Capuzzo C.
        • Cerchi R.
        • Rui F.
        Ten years incidence of natural rubber latex sensitization and symptoms in a prospective cohort of health care workers using non-powdered latex gloves 2000-2009.
        Int Arch Occ Env Health. 2014; 87: 463-469
        • Wu M.Z.
        • McIntosh J.
        • Liu J.
        Current prevalence rate of latex allergy: why it remains a problem?.
        J Occup Health. 2016; 58: 138-144
        • Higgins C.L.
        • Palmer A.M.
        • Cahill J.L.
        • Nixon R.L.
        Occupational skin disease among Australian healthcare workers: a retrospective analysis from an occupational dermatology clinic, 1993-2014.
        Contact Dermatitis. 2016; 75: 213-222
        • Bousquet J.
        • Flahault A.
        • Vandenplas O.
        • Ameille J.
        • Duron J.J.
        • Pecquet C.
        • et al.
        Natural rubber latex allergy among health care workers: a systematic review of the evidence.
        J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006; 118: 447-454
        • Palosuo T.
        • Antoniadou I.
        • Gottrup F.
        • Phillips P.
        Latex medical gloves: time for a reappraisal.
        Int Arch Allergy Imm. 2011; 156: 234-246
        • Toholka R.
        • Cahill J.
        • Palmer A.
        • Nixon R.
        Factors contributing to the development of occupational contact dermatitis and contact urticaria.
        Safe Work Australia, Canberra (Australia)2014
        • Mylon P.
        • Lewis R.
        • Carre M.J.
        • Martin N.
        • Brown S.
        A study of clinicians' views on medical gloves and their effect on manual performance.
        Am J Infect Control. 2014; 42: 48-54
        • Keegel T.G.
        • MacFarlane E.
        • Nixon R.
        • La Montagne A.
        Provision of control measures for exposure of the hands to wet-working conditions in Australian workplaces.
        Int J Occup Env Health. 2012; 18: 312-319
        • Lyons G.
        • Roberts H.
        • Palmer A.
        • Matheson M.
        • Nixon R.
        Hairdressers presenting to an occupational dermatology clinic in Melbourne, Australia.
        Contact Dermatitis. 2013; 68: 300-306
        • Trape M.
        • Schenck P.
        • Warren A.
        Latex gloves use and symptoms in health care workers 1 year after implementation of a policy restricting the use of powdered gloves.
        Am J Infect Control. 2000; 28: 352-358
        • LaMontagne A.D.
        • Radi S.
        • Elder D.S.
        • Abramson M.J.
        • Sim M.
        Primary prevention of latex related sensitisation and occupational asthma: a systematic review.
        Occup Environ Med. 2006; 63: 359-364
      1. NHMRC, Australian guidelines for the prevention and control of infection in healthcare. Canberra (Australia): Commonwealth of Australia; 2010.

        • Fritschi L.
        • Crewe J.
        • Darcey E.
        • Reid A.
        • Glass D.C.
        • Benke G.P.
        • et al.
        The estimated prevalence of exposure to asthmagens in the Australian workforce, 2014.
        BMC Pulm Med. 2016; 16: 48
        • Australian Bureau of Statistics
        Socio-economic Indexes for Areas 2006.
        ABS, Canberra (Australia)2008
        • Australian Bureau of Statistics
        Australian Standard Geographical Classification.
        ABS, Canberra (Australia)2011
        • Fritschi L.
        • Friesen M.C.
        • Glass D.
        • Benke G.
        • Girschik J.
        • Sadkowsky T.
        OccIDEAS: Retrospective occupational exposure assessment in community-based studies made easier.
        J Environ Public Health. 2009; 2009: 957023
        • Australian Bureau of Statistics
        Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations.
        1st ed. ABS, Canberra (Australia)2006
        • StataCorp
        Stata Statistical Software: Release 14.
        StataCorp LP, College Station2015
        • Australian Bureau of Statistics
        Census of Population and Housing.
        Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra (Australia)2011
        • Lee J.
        • Tan C.S.
        • Chia K.S.
        A practical guide for multivariate analysis of dichotomous outcomes.
        Ann Acad Med Singap. 2009; 38: 714-719
        • Begg S.
        • Vos T.
        • Barker B.
        • Stevenson C.
        • Stanley L.
        • Lopez A.D.
        The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003.
        AIHW, Canberra (Australia)2007
        • Australian Bureau of Statistics
        National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15.
        ABS, Canberra (Australia)2015
        • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
        General Record of Incidence of Mortality workbooks: Asthma (ICD-10 J45, J46), 1907-2014.
        AIHW, Canberra (Australia)2017
        • Australian Bureau of Statistics
        Life Tables, States, Territories and Australia, 2013-15.
        ABS, Canberra (Australia)2016
        • Levin M.L.
        The occurrence of lung cancer in man.
        Acta Unio Int Contra Cancrum. 1953; 9: 531-541
        • MacFarlane E.
        • Smith P.
        • Keegel T.
        Chemical control measures for dermal exposure in Australian workplaces.
        J Occup Environ Med. 2013; 55: 1345-1349
        • Latza U.
        • Haamann F.
        • Baur X.
        Effectiveness of a nationwide interdisciplinary preventive programme for latex allergy.
        Int Arch Occ Env Health. 2005; 78: 394-402
        • Driscoll T.
        • Nelson D.I.
        • Steenland K.
        • Leigh J.
        • Concha-Barrientos M.
        • Fingerhut M.
        • et al.
        The-global burden of non-malignant respiratory disease due to occupational airborne exposures.
        Am J Ind Med. 2005; 48: 432-445
        • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
        Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011.
        AIHW, Canberra (Australia)2016
        • Salomon J.A.
        • Haagsma J.A.
        • Davis A.
        • de Noordhout C.M.
        • Polinder S.
        • Havelaar A.H.
        • et al.
        Disability weights for the Global Burden of Disease 2013 study.
        Lancet Glob Health. 2015; 3: E712-E723