Here’s something you need to know about Nitrile Gloves
Updated: Jan 2
What exactly Nitrile Gloves are?
Initially, nitrile gloves penetrated into the market as the predominant alternative for those who encountered allergic reaction when they wear latex gloves. Nitrile Glove is the most popular and preferred glove type among synthetic rubber gloves. It is mainly a product resulted from copolymerization of acrylo-nitrile and butadiene polymer. Acrylonitrile content takes account of the resistance to oil / hydrocarbon, where the higher the acrylonitrile content, the greater the glove’s resistance to oil or hydrocarbons. While butadiene content accounts for the glove’s elasticity and stretchability. Owing to the nature of its raw materials, nitrile gloves are designed to be durable, having great chemical resistance properties, and simultaneously having good elasticity and stretchability. Since then, nitrile glove has been widely used across various industries due to its versatility.
Nitrile Glove Types
As response to COVID-19 outbreak, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has included CERTIFIED medical gloves as a useful Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that used to protect wearer and patient from the transmission of infectious bacteria or viruses. Medical gloves have also recognized as one of the infection control strategies that is useful in combating COVID-19 spread. Let’s take a closer look to the common nitrile gloves on market.
Medical gloves are disposable, strictly no reuse can be tolerated, and including examination gloves, surgical gloves, and also medical gloves tested with chemotherapy drugs (hereby represented with chemo gloves). Examination gloves are widely to be used in common medical procedure, examinations, medical check-up, diagnosis, vaccine injection, and the occasion where hands may come into contact with body fluids such as blood, vomit, mucus, urine, faeces. Not just clinic and hospitals, several segments have adopted the practices to use nitrile gloves in their workplaces, these including food and beverage premises, oil and gas industry, laboratories, automotive industry, beauty centre, hospitality and so on.
Surgical gloves, generally sterile, are to be used in the surgical procedures in operating theatre. Since surgical gloves are designed to be used in sterile environment, they are manufactured in highest quality standard, with the least tolerance to defected products, referring to the term Acceptable Quality Limit (AQL). For example, AQL 1.5 means that there will be no more than 1.5% products found to be defected in one batch during the sampling. Generally, examination gloves are at AQL 1.5, while surgical gloves are at AQL 0.65. Therefore, surgical gloves are made to be high in precision, so does the pricing.
Next common nitrile glove type will be chemo nitrile gloves. Chemo gloves usually produced with nitrile as raw material, due to the prevalence latex allergy issues. Chemo gloves are used in the occasion where the doctors are coming into contact with chemotherapy drugs / anti-cancer drugs in cancer treatment used to treat cancer patients. The goal of cancer treatment including removing known tumors, preventing the reoccurrence or spread of the cancerous cell, and also relieving patients’ symptoms. Therefore, approved chemo gloves should be worn all time when doctors are handling hazardous drug, as the gloves act as the first line protection in handling the cytotoxic drugs. It became extremely important to choose the certified gloves from reliable sources.
Since nitrile gloves are recognized as one of the useful infectious control strategies, the global demand towards nitrile gloves has achieved substantial incline amid COVID-19 that had grown about three-fold in 2020. Let’s get a closer look to the industries that consumed significant amount of the nitrile gloves.
There is no way for us to doubt the major field that consumed most of the nitrile gloves, will be the medical and healthcare field. According to (Grand View Research, 2020), medical and healthcare industries accountable for around 69% of global nitrile gloves consumption in 2020. Despite medical gloves have always been using by healthcare workers during medical procedures before pandemic, it required the healthcare workers to replace new gloves more frequently in handling this contagious virus, and consumption were increased in few-folds as a result of strict hygiene protocols. Moreover, many healthcare systems and governmental institutions in the US started to stockpiling in response to subsequent waves of COVID-19, after they had suffered from their over-dependence towards foreign manufactured-PPE.
Next segment that has relatively-high nitrile glove consumption is the Food and Beverage Service Segment. With the increasing stringent hygiene protocols being implemented to Food and Beverage service worldwide, plus public are being more concerned with hygiene practices, food manufacturers or food factories, has started to put PPE such as face mask and gloves to be mandatory equipment upon entering the plant. Why food workers have to wear gloves? The primary answer for this question has to be in food safety perspective, which is to prevent human hand to come contact with food / or food contact surface, thus preventing food borne illness resulted from insanitary food preparation practices. Another thing worth mentioning, gloves also served as protection barrier to protect the workers from getting injured by physical hazards in workplace, and also contamination. By extension, gloves are said to protect the food business, customers and the reputation.
In addition, Nitrile Gloves have been widely used in Automotive industry, one of the world’s largest industries by revenue. The puncture resistance, chemical resistance and oil resistance properties of the gloves are the determining factor to decide the glove type to be used in automotive industry. Workers often come across with sharp objects, and poisonous car fluids such as gasoline, radiant coolant, battery acid and that is why nitrile glove instead of latex gloves are often recognized as the most suitable gloves to be used in automotive industries.
Furthermore, hospitality industries such as hotel, beauty industries such as hair salon, nail salon, spa, massage have slowly incorporated safety protocols such as wearing face mask and gloves in workplace.
Comparison - other glove types
1. We assumed all the glove type mentioned below (Nitrile, Natural Rubber and Vinyl) are certified medical grade examination gloves, with no defect and in its original dexterity.
2. All characteristics, except point 8 Allergen Free, are assuming no allergic reactions caused by latex protein in users.
1. Protection Against Pathogen
Certified medical examination gloves, regardless the raw materials, are certified to fulfil the requirement in EN374-2 (air tight and water tight test). This is what we have mentioned previously, about the AQL. The glove AQL is technically looking at the result in air tight and water tight test. Medical examination gloves generally having AQL of 1.5. In the other word, there must be not more than 1.5% of gloves (per batch) that found to be failure (having pinholes that cause air and water leakage). Furthermore, medical examination gloves that passed ASTM F1671, the viral penetration test are said to be useful against pathogen protections. Since medical examination gloves have been used widely in healthcare industry, this ability for the gloves to protect against pathogen transmission is becoming extremely crucial.
2. Chemical Resistance
Certified nitrile and latex gloves are able to resist to common chemical agents such as Heptane, Sodium Hydroxide and Formaldehyde, and etcetera. However, both nitrile and latex gloves could not resist to very strong chemicals. Vinyl gloves provide very poor resistance towards chemicals, made them to be not ideal for healthcare and lab work application, which basically involved chemical handling.
3. Oil Resistance
Both latex gloves and vinyl gloves are not suitable to be used in occasion involving oils and hydrocarbons. Latex gloves become destructible when they came into contact with oil, the gloves will show deterioration signs where immediate disposal is needed. This will leave the latex gloves sticky and misshape, where the latex gloves are no longer useful as protection barriers.
4. Puncture Resistance
Technically, a piece of glove with many pre-existing pinholes tend to be more destructible when it come into contact with sharp instrument (physical hazard), regardless of the occasion. Vinyl gloves tend to have more pinhole in nature, and they are also having less elasticity than nitrile gloves and latex gloves, and is having low puncture resistance in general.
Due to the nature of raw material, natural rubber latex gloves are having greatest elasticity among all, followed by nitrile gloves that made up of synthetic rubber, and then vinyl gloves. When vinyl gloves are stretched or flexed, the individual molecules separate and the integrity of the protective barrier is compromised, therefore vinyl gloves are extremely not suitable for tasks where stretching might be involved.
In conclusion, it is wiser to choose the right type of glove according to specific occasion, where all the characteristics have to be taken into account. If the application involved only low hazard work and does not involved chemicals, vinyl gloves can be the greatest choice. However, if the application involved chemical and oil handling, nitrile gloves might be the best choice in this occasion. Therefore, the perfect glove exist nowhere, only the suitable glove does.
The international standards and product conformance shall be discussed in the upcoming articles, stay tuned! Happy browsing!