Nitrile Gloves in History

Nitrile gloves may seem new to the industry, but nitrile is not a new material. Nitrile compounds, a form of synthetic rubber, have been around for several hundred years. It wasn’t until natural rubber became scarcer during the two World Wars that the production of nitrile gloves was considered. Even then, it wasn’t until the 60s when the medical industry needed an alternative to latex that the development of a commercial blend of nitrile that leant itself to mass production was developed.
Medical Uses for Nitrile Gloves
Rubber glove use began when pouring carbolic acid on nurse’s hands, with the introduction of germ theory, caused rashes. When rubber became scarce, latex gloves were developed. But growing allergies to latex caused manufacturers to look for a material with similar properties, but without the allergy problems latex caused.
A search began for a synthetic rubber without the allergy causing antigen proteins in latex. This led to nitrile, a material in use for products including industrial gloves since the 1930s. In addition, since nitrile gloves don’t produce the powdery by-product common in other synthetic gloves they were perfect for labs that must be antiseptically clean.
A Search for Superior Industrial Gloves
Latex gloves had been around for years by the 1960s. However, when dealing with abrasive materials or chemicals there were problems. Gloves were thin and often didn’t protect the wearer completely. Early nitrite gloves were thick and heavy, which gave great protection.
They were also resistant to petro-chemicals and hydrocarbons, making them particularly useful for heavy industry. Initially somewhat clumsy to use, this changed with the development of vulcanization and polymerization. Nitrite gloves became more malleable and even used in such areas as chemical laboratory work.
Increased Need for Puncture Protection
Puncture resistance has made nitrile gloves a top choice for medical and dental work. They are three times more resistant to punctures than traditional latex plus they have a tendency to tear when they are punctured. This makes it obvious to the wearer that their safety has been compromised. Latex gloves don’t tear, so the wearer may be unaware of a critical puncture.
With the advance of blood-borne disease, this became a critical difference. Once nitrile gloves had been further refined to give them added tactile sensitivity and elasticity they became the de facto glove of choice across the entire dental profession and still are today.
As you can see, the development of nitrile gloves for industry and medical/dental has proven to be critical. While the patented properties may make them incrementally more expensive, they are easily worth every penny for the protection they give.