Food and Drug Administration Proposes Banning Powdered Surgical Gloves

The Food and Drug Administration proposed banning powdered surgical gloves Monday, saying the powder can carry dangerous allergens into the air.

The FDA has been warning about the gloves for nearly 20 years. Powder makes the gloves easier to take on and off and absorbs sweat — but it can get into the air and even into surgical openings.

Image: At least one in 20 U.S. adults who seek outpatient care at an emergency room, community health center or other site may be misdiagnosed, a new study finds.
A paramedic takes blood from a patient. Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

"While use of these gloves is decreasing, they pose an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury to health care providers, patients and other individuals who are exposed to them, which cannot be corrected through new or updated labeling," the FDA said in a statement.

"The proposed ban applies to powdered surgeon's gloves, powdered patient examination gloves and absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon's glove."

Many people are allergic to latex, and powder on these gloves can disperse allergens into the air. And while powder from synthetic gloves doesn't carry these allergens, it can cause respiratory irritation and get into surgical openings and wounds.

"This ban is about protecting patients and health care professionals from a danger they might not even be aware of," said the FDA'S Dr. Jeffrey Shuren. "We take bans very seriously and only take this action when we feel it's necessary to protect the public health."

The FDA said it considered comments and advice before proposing the ban.

"The FDA also conducted an economic analysis that showed a powdered glove ban would not cause a glove shortage and the economic impact of a ban would not be significant. The ban is also not likely to impact medical practice, because many non-powdered protective glove options are currently available," it said.

The proposed rule is published online for public comment for 90 days.