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'Protective' gloves sometimes aren't.

Often, only a thin layer of rubber stands between the skin and toxic substances. But workers who don safety gloves while handling organic chemicals might not get the protection they expect, say two chemists from the University of Akron in Ohio.

James K. Hardy and graduate student Christopher Fricker evaluated whether seven common organic solids penetrated five glove materials. For the tests, they mounted pieces of latex, urethane, nitrile, neoprene and polyvinyl chloride, one at a time, in a pressurized stainless steel cylinder. Then they put a pellet of organic solid on the test material and measured how quickly molecules from the pellet "broke through" to the other side and built up a concentration three times that already in the environment.

"No glove is totally impermeable," Fricker says. Some protected against a few solids, but none worked against every solid tested. Solids took minutes to hours to seep through. These times decreased as temperature increased, he notes.

The results showed that powdered camphor, used in polymer processing, generally went through the fastest. Overall, the nitrile material proved the most protective. Nonetheless, Fricker says, "I think they need to design a better glove material." Until then, he advises workers to change (and safely dispose of) their gloves ofthen, every 5 minutes if possible.
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Title Annotation:may not give workers protection when handling toxic chemicals
Author:Pennisi, Elizabeth
Publication:Science News
Date:May 4, 1991
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