Gloves in the laboratory
Time:Nov 16, 2021
Wear gloves protect against skin absorption of chemicals, chemical burns, thermal burns, lacerations, and cryogenic liquid exposure.  Choosing the appropriate hand protection can be a challenge in a laboratory setting. 

Wear gloves when handling hazardous materials, chemicals of unknown toxicity, corrosive materials, rough or sharp-edged objects, and very hot or very cold materials.  Disposable nitrile or neoprene gloves are usually appropriate as protection from incidental splashes or contact with lab chemicals.  However, the SDS should be consulted to verify chemical compatibility with the gloves being used.

When working with chemicals with high acute toxicity, working with corrosives in high concentrations, handling chemicals for extended periods of time or immersing all or part of a hand into a chemical, the appropriate glove material should be selected, based on chemical and task compatibility.  

Glove Selection
Consider the following when selecting a glove:

*degradation rating
*breakthrough time
*permeation rate

Degradation is the change in the physical properties of a glove caused by contact with a chemical. Degradation typically appears as hardening, stiffening, swelling, shrinking or cracking of the glove. Degradation ratings indicate how well a glove will hold up when exposed to a chemical.

Breakthrough time is the elapsed time between the initial contact of the test chemical on the surface of the glove and the analytical detection of the chemical on the inside of the glove.

Permeation rate is the rate at which the test chemical passes through the glove material once breakthrough has occurred and equilibrium is reached. Permeation involves absorption of the chemical on the surface of the glove, diffusion through the glove, and desorption of the chemical on the inside of the glove.  If chemical breakthrough does not occur, then permeation rate is not measured.

Manufacturers stress that permeation and degradation tests are done under laboratory test conditions, which can vary significantly from actual conditions in the work environment. 

For mixtures, it is recommended that the glove material be selected based on the shortest breakthrough time.

Glove Inspection, Use and Care
Inspect gloves for signs of degradation or puncture before use. Test for pinholes by blowing or trapping air inside and rolling them out. Do not fill them with water, as this makes the gloves uncomfortable and may make it more difficult to detect a leak when wearing the glove.

Change dispossable gloves when there is any sign of contamination. Reusable gloves should be washed frequently if used for an extended period of time.

Do not wear gloves ouside of the laboratory. Utilize carts or carriers to transport research materials from lab to other support areas. If materials must be hand-carried, utilize one gloved hand and one non-gloved hand to allow for touching common area objects; e.g., door knobs, elevator buttons, etc.

Be careful not to handle anything but the materials involved in the procedure while wearing gloves. Touching equipment, phones, wastebaskets or other surfaces may cause contamination.  Resist touching your face, hair, and clothing as well.

Before removing them, wash the outside of the glove. To avoid accidental skin exposure, remove the first glove by grasping the cuff and peeling the glove off the hand so that the glove is inside out. Repeat this process with the second hand, touching the inside of the glove cuff, rather than the outside. Wash hands immediately with soap and water.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and caring for reusable gloves.

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