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Protect Yourself from Latex Allergies

Maricopa, Ariz. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Since the 1980s, latex gloves have been an important part of preventing the spread of infectious diseases like MRSA, HIV and AIDS. In fact, ten billion latex gloves are used every year in the United States. As we use more latex, more people are developing dangerous allergies to it. Scientists have developed a new, natural alternative that may solve the problem.

Faith, Lamar and David Ryberg love games -- but that's not all they have in common. They all have Spina Bifida. Like 68 percent of kids with this birth defect, all three have dangerous allergies to latex.

"You just get kind of nervous you could stop breathing at any moment," Lamar told Ivanhoe.

Three million Americans and as many as 17 percent of healthcare workers in the United States have latex allergies. Reactions range from skin irritations and wheezing to a sudden drop in blood pressure, anaphylactic shock and even death. Scientists say a desert plant called guayule offers a new, natural rubber alternative without the proteins that trigger allergic reactions.

Katrina Cornish, Ph.D., a plant biologist and immunochemist at the Yulex Corporation in Maricopa, Ariz., says the key to processing guayule is to release the rubber contained in the plant. It starts with a sort of guayule milkshake.

"We take the whole shrub and grind it up to release the rubber particles, which are made in the bark into an aqueous medium," Dr. Cornish told Ivanhoe.

Rubber particles in the mixture are slightly lighter than water. By spinning the solution in a centrifuge, the rubber separates, forming a liquid that rises to the top.

Dr. Cornish says not only is this latex alternative, called Yulex, safer for those with allergies -- products made with it are more flexible and stronger than latex. In this test, the Yulex on the left stood up to nearly twice as much force as the purple latex on the right.

Uses for guayule latex are virtually endless.

"So far, we haven't found anything made out of rubber that we can't make with guayule," Dr. Cornish said.

It's a new kind of rubber that might just fit like a glove for the millions with latex allergies, like Lamar.

"It would be very, very good!" Lamar exclaimed.

Yulex recently received FDA approval for a medical examination glove. Researchers say it's comparable in price to high-end synthetic latex. Because over 50 percent of rubber products now available are petroleum-based, Yulex could become even more attractive as oil prices increase.

The Materials Research Society and the American Industrial Hygiene Association contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Betsy Brottlund
Account Manager
(W)right On Communications, Inc.
San Marcos, CA 92069
(619) 302-6965
bbrottlund@wrightoncomm.com

Materials Research Society
Warrendale, PA 15086-7573
(724) 779-3003
webmaster@mrs.org

American Industrial Hygiene Association
Melissa Hurley
(703) 846-0740
mhurley@aiha.org


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Prior Reports
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