Be Picky with Gloves   


When it comes to controlling chemical hazards in laboratories, engineering controls such as ventilation, and administrative controls such as safety training and warning signs should have priority over personal protective equipment such as gloves, in terms of hierarchy of hazard control. However, regardless of other control measures in place, it is always important to wear appropriate chemical resistant gloves when handling hazardous chemicals, either as a ¡§last line of defense¡¨ or an extra layer of protection.


As we always emphasize in chemical safety training classes, chemical users must keep in mind the following points about gloves:



To facilitate chemical users in selecting correct glove materials, there is a database called ¡§Instant Glove¡¨ in the University Library collection. You may access the database as follows:


Use an on-campus PC computer with the Library Online Systems program installed (all PCs in the Library and most PCs in the Computer Barns already have this program installed).


1.      Start -> Programs -> Library Online Systems

2.      CD-ROM Databases

3.      Double-click the name ¡§Instant Glove + CPC Database¡¨

4.      Click ¡§Gloves + CPC by Chemical¡¨ to search gloves and chemical protective clothing (CPC) materials and models suitable for a particular chemical you intend to use


The general purpose chemical gloves people commonly used in our laboratories are made of materials called Nitrile or Neoprene. Both of these offer reasonable protection to a wide range of common chemicals. However, latex (or surgical) gloves that are used by many biological labs are generally NOT chemical resistant.  They are only good for protection against biological materials such as bodily fluids, infectious organisms, etc. If lab workers need both the dexterity of latex gloves, and protection against chemicals, they should use gloves made of thin chemical-resistant materials, such as thin Nitrile gloves. However, remember the breakthrough time is also dependent on thickness.  So even though the material is chemical resistant, thinner gloves offer less protection.


A few years ago, an overseas university researcher was accidentally exposed to several drops of dimethylmecury through her latex-gloved hand, and several months later she died of neural toxicity of the chemical.  (A US Occupational Safety and Health Administration bulletin about this incident is available at  This tragic accident served as a painful reminder of the importance of carefully selecting gloves, and never handling hazardous chemicals while wearing latex or other non-chemical resistant gloves.


When it comes to selection of gloves, you¡¦d better be picky!