Growth of Nitrile Glove Market Means Buyers Need To Beware

Matthew Piortrowski and Brian Moseley, Contributors

Common sense goes a long way in making purchasing decisions. Looking into a company’s background and credentials is important when it comes to acquiring high-quality nitrile gloves. (photo courtesy Showa Group)

With both industry trends and the coronavirus pandemic prompting the increased use of protective gloves—particularly disposable gloves—a number of new, third-party industrial distributors have entered the market. Buyers should look beyond mere cost as the major factor in the purchasing decision, however, and ensure they are getting high-quality nitrile gloves from reputable sources.

What Are Nitrile Gloves; Why So Popular?

Disposable nitrile gloves were invented by Neil Tillitson and Luc DeBecker in the 1980s. They first came into widespread use in the medical profession, mainly because, unlike latex gloves, they did not cause allergic reactions among either the health care providers who wore them or the patients who came into contact with them.

However, the industrial sector quickly grew to recognize and appreciate the chemical resistance of nitrile gloves, eventually leading to nitrile glove-related revenues in that segment that now rival those of the medical industry. Disposable nitrile gloves are commonly used in the chemical, food service, processing, automotive, healthcare, municipal services, janitorial/maintenance services and pharmaceutical industries, among others. Suitable applications include biotechnology; cytostatics; hospital and medical care laboratory, pharma and analysis; as well as life sciences, medical pharmaceuticals and API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient).

Single-use nitrile gloves are made from a synthetic rubber that is both durable and resistant to oils, acids, fuel, and potentially hazardous and corrosive chemicals—although exposure to certain chemicals can cause the glove to degrade and become prone to punctures. Nitrile gloves are free of BPA and phthalate (an acid) and—as  mentioned above—tend to cause fewer allergic reactions among wearers than latex gloves. Nitrile gloves are stronger and more puncture-resistant than latex gloves. Although nitrile gloves don’t offer as much comfort and dexterity as latex gloves do, manufacturers have made significant improvements in those areas.

The risks of sub-par single-use nitrile range from an elevated danger of incurring punctures, accelerated breakdown and even an increased exposure to COVID-19, due to their inability to provide effective protection against infectious disease transmission.

Vetting distributors can be accomplished by determining the following:

  • Does the brokerage from whom you’re considering buying nitrile gloves have the data and certifications to back their quality claims? These would take the form of test reports in respect to ASTM or ISO procedures.
  • Can the brokerage supply certifications from third-party labs declaring the product’s claims?
  • Does the seller have a technical department you can contact for specific end-use recommendations? Can it offer end user-specific declarations signed by the manufacturer?
  • Is every single pair of gloves individually hand inspected at the end of the production process ?

Common sense goes a long way in making sound purchasing decisions. Looking into a company’s background and credentials is important when it comes to acquiring high-quality nitrile gloves.

There are red flags that should convince you to avoid doing business with a prospective vendor or partner, such as their inability to:

  • Provide you with glove specifications
  • Answer questions about a glove’s Acceptable Quality Level (AQL) or its thickness (mils)
  • Tell you whether the glove has been manufactured using accelerants, or whether or not the glove is chlorinated

Consumers need to ensure that they are securing hand protection from trusted brands that have quality control in place throughout the process of glove manufacturing to distribution.

Additionally, check to make sure the gloves have the features needed for the industry, tasks or environment in which they’ll be used. These may include their being powder free and/or being certified and suitable for use in a class 100 cleanroom environment. Certain operations may require gloves that have a textured finish on fingertips to enhance grip or rolled cuffs to prevent dirt from entering the glove. Are the gloves designed and formulated in a way that improves fit and reduces fatigue?

Doing your research and asking for certifications regarding claims, credentials and test results will help buyers avoid being taken advantage of during these unique times. The old adage still offers sound advice: If it sounds too good to be true, most likely, it is. Do your homework! IHW

[Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Workplace Material Handling & Safety’s February 2021 “Glove Issue.” For more hand safety-related articles, visit www.workplacepub.com.]

About the Authors

Matthew Piortrowski is Showa’s Product Manager; Brian Moseley is Showa’s RAQA/Technical Manager. www.showagroup.com