Original article from mddionline.com
There are more than 40,000 types of commercial products that are made from natural rubber latex (NRL), an extract of the Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). Valued for its desirable properties, NRL is used in numerous products in the medical industry, including latex gloves, adhesive bandages, catheters, breather bags, and condoms. However, out of more than 200 proteins contained within NRL, 13 are known to be allergens. The American Latex Allergy Association estimates that 3% of the general population and 17% of healthcare workers exhibit some form of latex allergy, thus hindering the use of such products.
Fortunately, a solution exists for removing the antigenic proteins that can cause such immune responses. It involves the addition of aluminum hydroxide, Al(OH)3, a well-known protein-binding chemical, to NRL while it is still in liquid form. This compound acts as a binding agent to the latex and produces protein complexes that can be removed using existing industry practices. The result is an ultra-low-protein variant of NRL that retains all of the advantages of the material while reducing the exposure of individuals to the allergenic proteins. How is modified NRL made? What makes it superior to traditional untreated NRL? And what advantages does it offer healthcare workers and patients in terms of specific medical applications? These are the questions this article attempts to address.
Manufacturing a Low-Protein Latex
The complex properties of NRL—as well as its availability, ease of production, and performance—allow its use in a broad range of medical applications. In addition, its proven “green” biodegradability often makes it an appropriate choice in an increasingly environmentally conscious society.
Manufacturers have utilized low-protein latexes, combined with improved leaching processes, in an attempt to offer consumers safer latex products. The Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN) has even defined safer latex as latex with less than 50 µg/dm2 for total extractable protein and less than 10 µg/dm2 of antigenic protein. Latex products that meet this standard are referred to as “Latex Safe” by AORN. A relatively new form of modified NRL not only contains significantly fewer allergenic and total proteins than previous versions but also has additional benefits that enable manufacturers to offer better products with the modified NRL as a cost-effective ingredient. Each end-product discussed in this article has its own unique compounding additive requirements as determined by its respective manufacturer. The benefits of removing specific nonrubber impurities naturally found in NRL include the production of a more stable, cleaner latex that may require fewer compounding additives such as whiteners and stabilizers during production.