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Utilization of Latex Protective Barriers in Combination with

In June of 2005, a study was conduced by students at the Atlantic College of Therapeutic Massage (ACTM) in Fredericton, N.B., regarding the awareness that massage therapists have of the potential hazards of using latex or vinyl gloves and latex finger cots in combination with petroleum-based or vegetable-based lubricants.


October 1, 2009
By Lynne McKenzie Matthias Mann and Pierre Wust

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In June of 2005, a study was conduced by students at the Atlantic College of Therapeutic Massage (ACTM) in Fredericton, N.B., regarding the awareness that massage therapists have of the potential hazards of using latex or vinyl gloves and latex finger cots in combination with petroleum-based or vegetable-based lubricants.
 
While the problem regarding allergic reactions to latex has been widely publicized and acknowledged, the student study concluded that the problem regarding the loss of protection when latex or vinyl gloves are used in conjunction with lubricants has not yet entered the consciousness of many massage therapists.

The study involved a survey sent to more than 650 massage therapists across Canada. Seventy-two per cent of the respondents were female, and the greatest number of respondents were in the 30 to 39 age category.

The survey showed that more than two-thirds of massage therapists use a protective barrier that may not provide all the required protection from potentially harmful pathogens.

In addition, approximately one third of respondents did not know what type of lubricants they were using. Over 30 per cent of the respondents said they used vinyl or another type of finger cot. As far as the researchers were aware, the only finger cots available are made of latex.
 
Throughout the course of the investigation into the problems of latex and lubricants, the researchers found that vinyl gloves are not a good replacement for latex as they can also break down when combined with oil-based lubricants.

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The research led to the conclusion that nitrile is the best alternative to latex or vinyl. Nitrile gloves are not affected by oils or alcohol and they are puncture resistant. While they do not fit as well as latex gloves, they are still comfortable to wear and are not bulky like vinyl gloves.

There are generally no concerns regarding allergic reactions, but it has to be kept in mind that nitrile contains chemical accelerators.

It is acknowledged that the breakdown of the protective barrier may be less of a concern for a massage therapist than it is for other healthcare providers, such as surgeons. However, it should be of paramount importance for every massage therapist to protect him/herself as well as the client from any potential infection, even if the risk of transmission is low.

The need for education regarding this matter is imperative.

From this initiative of the Atlantic College of Therapeutic Massage, the researchers feel that other massage therapy schools, colleges and associations should pursue an education program on the effective use of protective barriers.


Submitted by student researchers: Lynne McKenzie, Matthias Mann and Pierre Wust, for instructor, Nadine Currie-Jackson. The complete report is available by contacting the Atlantic College of Therapeutic Massage via e-mail at rjactm@nb.aibn.com or by phone at (506) 451-8663.


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