Latex gloves have proved effective in preventing transmission of many infectious diseases to health care workers. Eliminating exposure to latex products in a healthcare industry is a major challenge because numerous medical products and equipment contain latex derivatives. For some healthcare workers exposures to latex has resulted in changing their profession to prevent an anaphylactic shock and/or death.. Reports of such reactions have increased in recent years-- especially among health care workers. Reports of immediate hypersensitivity to latex have increased dramatically since the first case was reported (in English) in 1979.1 Sixteen deaths occurred in association with the use of a latex barium enema tip, leading to the recall of the device in 1991 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)2 and an increase in awareness of the risk of a life-threatening type I allergy associated with natural latex devices. Ten to 17 percent of health care workers have already become sensitized, and over 2 percent have occupational asthma as a result of latex exposure.1
In the US: Latex allergy is present in 1–5% of the general population, with an increased prevalence in atopic individuals. Latex allergy is increased in populations with chronic occupational exposure to latex. It is found in 2–17% of HCWs and in at least 10% of rubber industry workers. Symptoms of latex allergy have been described in 14% of a group of EMS providers and in 54% of a pediatric ED staff. Atopy raises the risk of occupational sensitization
According to the Workers' Compensation Case Law, former Circuit Judge Steven Zinter of Pierre, who decided in October 2001 that Mary Beth Kennedy was not entitled to worker's compensation benefits, was overruled 4-1 by the court Supreme Court. Zinter, who is now a member of the Supreme Court had ruled that Kennedy who had suffered from an occupational disease that did not qualify her for benefits. Overturning that decision, the Supreme Court said solid medical evidence proved that Kennedy's condition qualified for benefits under state law. Allergists have testified that the woman's exposure to latex dust during surgery at St. Luke's was the major cause of her disability, the justices said.
"Any exposure to latex is now a major life or death situation for Kennedy," wrote Circuit Judge Jack Von Wald of Selby, serving as an acting justice. "Although Kennedy was predisposed to her allergy and was, no doubt, suffering from the disease of latex allergy, an injury may occur when a pre-existing disease makes an employee more susceptible to a work-related injury." Severe allergic reaction, triggered by working conditions, may be considered an injury that makes people eligible for worker's compensation benefits, the state Supreme Court ruled.
The decision land marked the first time the high court ruled that an allergic episode may be the basis of payments for medical expenses and total loss of wages.