If you work in a factory, laboratory, or healthcare setting, you know how important it is to use the right gear for the job. There are numerous hazards that workers face every day, ranging from cuts and scrapes to chemical exposure and blood-borne pathogens. While some of these risks can be mitigated by training and behavior, there are others where gloves are the best answer. Workers simply need gloves to protect their hands from cuts, abrasions, chemicals, and other hazards. Nitrile gloves offer excellent cut resistance while still being thin enough to allow users complete manual dexterity. These properties make nitrile gloves an essential component of any worker’s personal protective equipment (PPE) kit. This article explores the history of nitrile gloves and why they’re so effective.

What Are Nitrile Gloves?

Nitrile gloves are a type of glove that’s made of synthetic rubber. The most common types of nitrile are butyl and butadiene rubber. Nitrile gloves are often used as an alternative to latex gloves for people who are allergic to latex. Nitrile gloves are commonly used in healthcare settings for mixing medications, administering injections, and other procedures where blood-borne pathogens are a risk. Nitrile gloves are a good choice for non-medical settings as well. Nitrile gloves are available in powder-free, powdered, textured, and colored varieties.

A Brief History of Nitrile Gloves

In the 1930s, German chemists Erich Konrad and Eduard Tschunkur patented nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) for producing tires and rubber seals. In the 1980s, Neil Tillitson and Luc DeBecker invented nitrile gloves. Their corporation, the Tillitson Corporation, was granted a patent for the nitrile glove formula and production method in 1991 after producing the first 100% nitrile disposable glove. What was initially slow to gain acceptance in medical settings turned out to be the dominant product a decade later.

During the global AIDS epidemic from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, the demand for Nitrile gloves increased substantially and facilities produced them in large quantities. Since Nitrile gloves are an exceptional alternative to latex gloves, they have become popular with all medical professionals and patients, not only those who suffer from latex allergies.

Due to their strength, feel, and comfort, nitrile gloves are now the most popular material—outperforming latex and vinyl in terms of durability, flexibility, and comfort. Nitrile has triple the puncture resistance of latex and additional abrasion and chemical resistance. It is suitable for working with 76% of the chemicals on the market, in addition to mineral oil, vegetable oil, grease, gas, diesel fuel, and numerous acids.

Nitrile Gloves are an important consideration not only for those with latex allergies but also for members of the public who come into direct physical contact, particularly medical and dental personnel, security personnel, tattoo artists, and beauty professionals.

The newest development within nitrile gloves is Accelerator-Free nitrile gloves, manufactured entirely without chemical accelerators. This enables the gloves to be used by people with Type IV Hypersensitivity, that can usually not use gloves at all.

Benefits of Using Nitrile Gloves

Cut reduction – A significant portion of hand injuries happen when workers’ hands are cut or injured by sharp objects. Nitrile gloves are specially designed to reduce cuts and abrasions, keeping workers’ hands safe. Excellent dexterity – Nitrile gloves are thin enough that workers can maintain full manual dexterity while wearing them. Without dexterity, workers would be unable to do many tasks that require fine motor skills. Chemical resistance – Nitrile gloves are specially designed with chemicals in mind. They provide excellent chemical and solvent resistance, making them ideal for food service and laboratory work. Blood-borne pathogens protection – Some jobs involve working with blood and other pathogens that could be transmitted to workers through cuts. Nitrile gloves provide excellent blood-borne pathogens protection.

Limitations of Nitrile Gloves

Depending on the thickness and flexibility of the gloves, they will be more or less protective against harsh chemicals. Always check the back of the box, which will show you exactly what chemicals the gloves are tested against. Another limitation is price, as nitrile gloves are the premium alternative to latex, vinyl and CPE/TPE gloves.