Objective: To investigate occupational latex allergy in health care workers (HCWs) before and after an intervention designed to reduce latex allergen exposure from gloves.
Methods: Latex antigen concentrations in work area air ducts were measured before the intervention. Symptoms and latex sensitization were monitored annually before and after the intervention in 805 HCWs, using questionnaires and skin prick testing.
Results: The prevalence of latex sensitization before the intervention correlated with air duct latex antigen measurements, for HCWs exposed to low (9/413, 2%), intermediate (23/292, 8%), and high (11/67, 16%) antigen levels, P < 0.0001. After the intervention, new latex sensitization rates declined 16-fold, and 25% of previously sensitized employees reverted to negative skin tests.
Conclusion: Airborne antigen exposure is a major source of latex sensitization among HCWs. Use of powder-free latex gloves markedly reduces the risk of sensitization.