Volume 17, Number 3 .... September 1995

Health and Safety

by Chris Stavroudis, Column Editor

At this moment I am leaning against the spice rack in the kitchen. You know, there is just never enough thyme.

I couldn't think of anything new to write about for this column. The last couple of columns have been very well received. Estrogenic mimics (see the January WAAC Newsletter) are still in the news. Reassuringly, a good number of conservators who have switched from Triton X-100 to Triton XL-80N have been pleased with the performance of the XL-80N.

I also received a number of comments on the last column on allergic reactions. The column was about minor allergic reactions to materials in our work environment that can suddenly escalate into full-blown life threatening incidents. I based the column on an article in Newsweek on latex sensitivity.

Did I do my homework? Did I consult the Health and Safety must-reads that I encourage all to subscribe to and read? Cumin now, of course not. (And no, I'm not trying to curry flavor, er, favor.)

Monona Rossol sent copies of four articles from ACTS FACTS which she had run since 1991 on latex allergies. The pieces describe: reports to the FDA about allergic reactions to latex-containing medical devices and mentions that artists who use latex gloves or work with latex rubber for casting should be alert to skin reactions (Oct. '91); a hospital worker's lawsuit (Nov. '91); an update on latex allergies with information on latex sensitivity rates in health care workers as well as the general population (Oct. '92); and a report on a class-action suit against glove manufacturers (Dec. '93).

In the July 1995 (Vol. 9, No. 7) issue of ACTS FACTS (Monona Rossol, Editor, 181 Thompson St., #23, New York, NY 10012, (212) 777-0062) is reprinted here in its entirety with permission:


Science News, Vol. 147, April 22, 1995. p. 24. FDA Consumer, June 1995. pp. 2-3.

An estimated 17 million people are allergic to natural rubber. And the reason, literally, may be floating in the wind. A team of California researchers at the Experimental Biology '95 Conference in Atlanta this April presented data showing that urban air and roadside dust contains components recognized by human and rabbit antibodies as latex. Extracts of both ground-up tires and rubber gloves elicited the same antibody response. Tiny amounts of latex shed into the environment by normal wear of tires may explain why some people that do not use latex products are sensitized.

People with no prior known response to latex may suddenly exhibit reactions to latex medical devices and surgical gloves ranging from minor skin reddening to fatal anaphylactic shock. Latex sensitivity affects an estimated one percent of the population including up to 15 percent of health workers and others exposed to latex regularly, and 34 to 100 percent of people with spina bifida who are exposed repeatedly to latex tips on enema bottles during treatment.

The diagnosis of latex-allergy usually is made by physical examination and history. Now a laboratory test can identify latex sensitivity by measuring latex antibodies in blood. The test was granted marketing clearance by FDA on March 24 based on clinical data showing the test detected latex sensitivity in 87 to 94 percent of the allergic patients. The new test, the AlaSTAT latex Specific IgE Allergen Test Kit (Diagnostic Products Corp., Los Angeles), can be performed in a hospital laboratory using patient blood specimens. Results are available in a few hours.

So why am I writing posed against the spice rack thinking about my previous columns? It is the closest thing I could think of to resting on my (bay) laurels.

Chris Stavroudis is a conservator in private practice.

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