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Prevention of IgE Sensitization to Latex in Health Care Workers After Reduction of Antigen Exposures

Kelly, Kevin J. MD; Wang, Mei Lin MD, MPh; Klancnik, Meribeth; Petsonk, Edward L. MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: August 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 8 - p 934–940
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31822589dc

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.

From the Departments of Pediatrics (Allergy/Immunology) and Medicine, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI (Dr Kelly and Ms Klancnik); and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-–National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, WV (Drs Wang and Petsonk).

This study was supported by grant U60/CCU14541 from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-–National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Address correspondence to: Kevin J. Kelly, MD, Department of Pediatrics (Allergy/Immunology) and Medicine, 999 N 92nd St, C-730, Wauwatosa, WI 53226; E-mail:

Copyright © 2011 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine