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Medical gloves coated with powder may be easier for doctors and nurses to slip on and off, but that doesn’t outweigh their health risks, the US Food and Drug Administration says. The agency announced Monday a proposed ban on most powdered gloves in the US.

“This ban is about protecting patients and health care professionals from a danger they might not even be aware of,” said Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, head of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a statement. “We take bans very seriously and only take this action when we feel it’s necessary to protect the public health.”

The powder currently used to coat natural rubber latex gloves carries proteins that can cause allergic reactions and breathing problems, the FDA said. And on top of that, the gloves can irritate a patient’s wounds and can even complicate post-surgical care if the powder causes inflammation.


Talc and other powders were formerly used to coat the inside of surgical gloves, but those powders were done away with after they were shown to cause inflammation. Now, cornstarch is often used, but the FDA said it’s causing similar problems.


The ban would include powdered surgeon’s gloves, powdered gloves used in patient exams, and also absorbable powder that can be put into a glove for extra lubrication. But in many exam rooms, doctors and nurses might not bat an eye at the ban — powdered gloves are used less frequently than they used to be, with synthetic gloves becoming more commonly used in exam rooms.

The proposed ban is open to public comment for the next 90 days.