The conversation about gloves is an important one and one I’m passionate about. So many of us remember back in the day how we coverslipped and changed stain lines bare-handed. How many of us old-school HTs have thyroid issues that started with xylene exposure?!
Unfortunately there really is not a single glove type that meets our needs with an ‘excellent’ rating in an affordable product allowing full dexterity. Also, what you have on your hands PRIOR to gloving can reduce the protection. These include soaps and lotions that can contribute to breaking down the glove faster than if you gloved with perfectly clean skin.
We’d all love to have a glove that guarantees no skin contact for the duration of the time we need to wear them. FORTUNATELY—there are practices you can do to increase your own protection with gloves rated ‘good’. Double gloving is one option; however this impedes movement and increases mechanical stress on your hands. If this is your best option, try two sizes—larger one the outer glove (obviously). If you elect to single-glove, pick at least a ‘good’ rating and change them frequently—even set a repeat timer based on the permeation rate of the glove type for the solvent and change slightly before the threshold is crossed.
Any time your gloves swell or pucker, they’ve absorbed the material with which you are working. They are then holding the chemical directly against your skin! Gloves are cheap compared to long-tem health consequences for repeat chemical exposure. It is rare to be compensated for these types of illnesses from any employer, plus your quality of life is reduced, probably forever. Really—we’d rather be healthy than have our employer pay for treatment!! Protect yourself to the best of your ability. No company I’ve ever worked for had issues with glove consumption: re-glove often!! Make sure your SOP gloving policy allows for re-gloving in chemical processes (vs biohazardous processes) without handwashing to make it easy for your people to protect themselves.
Take a look at the charts on the links below (I just checked them– no malware attached). There are dozens of charts like this and a few conflicts on the ratings between charts so test for yourself. There are more chart if you search the internet or your glove providers can usually help.
Glove composition and chemical composition vary by manufacturer so the differences in the charts are easily explained and support doing your own tests with the products you have in your lab. Make sure you’re protecting yourself from the chemicals that are in the bottle—don’t assume — read the MSDS.
Supported Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) is best rated but they are clumsy and bulky—not good for our technical use but GREAT for recycling and waste management tasks. They’re re-usable and can be shared for waste handling. Most of the regular tan ‘exam’ type gloves are like sponges—save them for water-based processes. The cheap food industry PVA work at a ‘fair to good’ level on most charts and can be changed frequently to give similar protection without the bulk. They aren’t fitted so they’re a little sloppy. Nitrile are more expensive, but also more comfy, consistently rated ‘good’ but they pucker within about 15-20 minutes of high exposure to xylene(s) such as hand coverlipping. Any time you change manufacturers, test again.
Keep yourself safe and healthy on the job—pick gloves that work and change them often!!