Are Glove Toxins Making Us Sick?

Disposable gloves are manufactured from several materials such as nitrile, latex or vinyl (PVC). Although these gloves are usually FDA food complaint or cleared for medical use, limited compliance allows for possible toxins or irritants to be added during manufacturing. Glove toxins are added to reduce costs of glove materials and can cause toxicity risks to both the glove wearer and the product or patient handled. Below we outline disposable glove toxins to be aware of, and their associated risks.

Phthalates and BPA

Ortho-phthalates, often referred to as “phthalates,” are chemicals used in plastic products, most commonly in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), including vinyl gloves.  Phthalates make PVC soft and less brittle. Up to 50% of vinyl glove raw materials can be made from plasticisers, often containing the inexpensive phthalates such as DiNP or DEHP and can also contain BPA. Phthalates and BPA have been shown to leach from products into the human body, have been linked to various adverse health effects, including hormone disruption, reproductive issues, developmental problems and cancer.

Phthalates are highly restricted in Europe and banned in Japan, and recently have been banned in food packaging in some US states, including Maine. Despite this, phthalates can still be found in vinyl (PVC) food-handling gloves in the U.S.  A recent study found 1 in 6 or 14% of vinyl gloves tested contain phthalates.

PFAS or “Forever Chemicals”

The manufacture, use and disposal of vinyl gloves uses or releases numerous highly hazardous chemicals. Its production starts with chlorine, which requires the use of asbestos, mercury or PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) depending on the technology.  More than $1 billion will be paid by three prominent US companies to settle claims that "forever chemicals" have contaminated public US water systems.  PFAS can contaminate the environment in many different ways, highlighted in this infographic.

A recent analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted a range of health consequences linked to PFAS exposure, including cancer, liver impairment, reduced fertility, heightened susceptibility to asthma and thyroid disorders.

PFAS are one of many chemicals tested for (including phthalates and BPA) by one of Eagle Protect’s largest customers. They routinely third-party lab test supplier products to ensure state and federal compliance, and social responsibility and sustainability.


Accelerator chemicals can be used in nitrile and latex glove manufacturing to make the gloves more elastic and flexible. Some accelerators, such as thiurams, carbamates, and mercaptobenzothiazole, can cause contact dermatitis or allergic reactions in glove wearers. Since the 1930s thiurams have been used extensively as germicides and fungicides. Read why fungicides can be found on new disposable gloves.

Toxic Chemicals

Cheap raw materials can be used in glove manufacturing to reduce costs. This can introduce toxic compounds which can transfer to glove users and products handled.  An example of this was the addition of o-Phenylphenol (OPP), listed by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as a compound known to cause cancer, found responsible for a cannabis recall.

The findings of a study conducted by an infertility center, demonstrated the impact of disposable glove toxicity on in vitro fertilization (IVF) results. The study involved testing the toxicity levels of 10 different brands of medical gloves, revealing high-level toxicity in eight of the glove brands, which in turn negatively affected different embryonic stages.

Same Glove Brand, Different Toxicity Results

It cannot be assumed that “phthalate-free” means gloves do not contain these harmful chemicals. Vinyl gloves from the same brand have been found to contain phthalates, while others do not. This was the recent experience of a restaurant chain, finding phthalates in some vinyl gloves brands but not in others. 

Differences in toxicity levels between batches of disposable gloves were also found in IVF quality control studies, stating “although one batch may be found to be non-toxic after a general screen, a different batch may well show cytotoxic effects.” 

Both studies indicate inconsistent manufacturing processes, and gloves sourced from multiple manufacturers with differing glove ingredients and procedures, bringing drastic inconsistencies to glove safety. 

Few controls are required in relation to the reliability and consistency of raw material ingredients, manufacturing processes, cleanliness and factory compliance. This allows manufacturers the opportunity to cut costs with the addition of cheap and toxic ingredients.

Mitigating Glove Toxins

The Eagle Standard, including Delta Zero™, Eagle’s proprietary glove quality verification program, ensures all Eagle products meet consistent high-quality specifications and do not contain harmful toxins - the same premium product, the same premium quality and the same premium performance, every order.

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