General Latex Information
Latex is a naturally occurring material that originates from the sap of a type of commercial rubber tree. The elastic qualities of latex make it ideal for medical products, gloves and tubing, injection sites and valves, flexible containers (bladders, bellows, bags) and waterproof sheeting, for example. Latex also forms an effective barrier against cross infection from bloodborne pathogens.
As with many natural products, latex contains proteins to which some individuals may develop an allergy. A latex allergy (sensitivity) can develop, and increase, as a result of repeated exposure. It can occur either through skin contact or inhalation.
While less than 1% of the general public in the United States is reported to have latex allergies, it is estimated that up to 17% of healthcare providers, educators and students have become sensitized (allergic) to latex because of increased opportunity for exposure.*
The number of healthcare institutions and medical simulation training centers are increasing, as are the amount and variety of equipment and materials that may contribute to exposure to latex and other allergens. Many healthcare institutions and medical product manufacturers are actively seeking alternatives for products that contain latex.
Allergic reactions can also result from contact with non-latex-containing products that have become "contaminated" through direct contact by persons wearing latex gloves or who have handled other latex-containing items. The resulting deposit of latex residue on a latex-free product or environmental surface can trigger a latex reaction.
Laerdal Products and Latex
Laerdal Medical is actively seeking alternatives for latex materials.
Laerdal Medical Therapy products (medical equipment for airway management and immobilization) are latex free.
Many of Laerdal's Training/Simulation products are also latex free. However, some do have external latex containing parts, such as simulated vein tubing and needle insertion practice sites, while others have internal latex parts that do not normally come into contact with the user.
It is best to assume that medical devices and training products, as well as the environments where such products are used, are likely to contain latex and/or latex residue. It is therefore especially important for institutions to establish Safe Practices and for individuals to take personal responsibility regarding possible latex exposure, especially if latex sensitivity is known or suspected.
If you have questions regarding latex in products used in your institution, direct your inquiries to your Risk Manager, Facility Manager, Training Director, etc.
American Latex Allergy Association www.latexallergyresources.org
Occupational Safety & Health Association (OSHA) http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/latexallergy/index.html
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology(AAAAI) www.aaaai.org
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) www.fda.gov
National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH) www.cdc.gov/niosh