OBJECTIVES: This article aims to review the current prevalence rate of latex allergy among healthcare workers, susceptible patients, and the general public, and to investigate why latex is still a ubiquitous occupational health hazard.
METHODS: Scientific publications on PubMed, particularly those published within the last five years, and current regulations from agencies such as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were reviewed. Consumer and commercial products that may contain latex were also surveyed.
RESULTS: Approximately 12 million tons of natural rubber latex is produced annually and is widely used to manufacture millions of consumer and commercial products. Only limited number of latex-derived products have been approved and regulated by government agencies, such as FDA, whereas the majority of finished products do not label whether they contain latex. Owing to millions of unidentifiable products containing latex and many routes for exposure to latex, preventing contact with latex allergens and reducing the prevalence of latex allergy are more difficult than expected. Reported data suggest that the average prevalence of latex allergy worldwide remains 9.7%, 7.2%, and 4.3% among healthcare workers, susceptible patients, and general population, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: Latex-derived products are ubiquitous, and latex allergy remains a highly prevalent health risk in many occupations and to the general population. Developing alternative materials and increasing the ability to identify and label latex-derived products will be practicable approaches to effectively control the health risks associated with latex.