The simple rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis, found in Malaysia, Thailand and South America is harvested for rubber latex.
This milky substance is a combination of amongst other things, organic polymers, proteins and lipids.
From tree to surgical gloves, involves a great deal of processing. Thankfully the understanding of this process has enabled scientists to tackle the increasing problem of latex allergies.
William Halstead was the first professional to use latex gloves when performing surgeries in 1890. Many other appliances used in medicine today are also manufactured from latex including many condoms. In fact, medical departments could not really survive without it.
An allergy to latex is a serious condition mainly because its use is so widespread. All around us everyday objects contain varying levels of it. Careful vigilance is required to avoid all contact. Children’s toys in particular are a minefield of potential problems.
Figures show that latex allergies have been steadily rising since the 1980’s. Not only because of their increased popularity in industries like health but also in the disturbing growth of unregulated factories in the market place. The latter is an area that must be addressed and quickly.
Countries like Indonesia have economies that rely almost exclusively on the export of rubber to the western world. Many millions of surgical gloves are imported into the USA every year.
The rise of allergies must be weighed against the successful containment of the HIV virus. The bottom line is that the wearing of protective gloves has saved many lives and will continue to do so.