PEARL  Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory

Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston ON, Canada, K7L 3N6

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Glove Safety at PEARL

December 7, 2005 

The following is a modified excerpt from a binder kept in PEARL.

Please use the following information and choose the best glove to protect yourself from the chemicals you are using. If you are unsure, ask the technician for help. Under WHIMIS regulations, both the lab supervisors and the researchers are responsible for safety. This safety note is intended to provide you with information on how to protect yourself and your lab mates and to show you where to look for more information. Please read this note and do any other research you need to make PEARL safe for you and others. 

At the moment, PEARL has several types of gloves in its inventory. This is necessary as no single type of glove will protect against all chemicals. In fact, some gloves can make exposure to a chemical worse by holding it against the skin (neoprene with toluene for example) or by giving a false sense of security. It is important to know that a particular glove will not protect you from all chemicals indefinitely. There are “breakthrough” times before exposure occurs. Gloves wear out, crack and need to be replaced or may need to be changed if splashed with a chemical. Cleaning and storage of gloves can also affect their ability to protect you. Remember, no procedures used in PEARL require that you submerge your gloved hands in a chemical. The gloves we have in PEARL are to guard against spills and splashes and are not intended for immersion.  

The materials gloves are made of vary in the protection offered from a given chemical. The thickness of a glove also plays a role. Generally, the thicker a glove is the longer it will take for a chemical to penetrate it and expose your skin. However, penetration time is not necessarily a linear relationship with thickness. You are advised to use the information in the binder pages or the referenced links below and choose the best splash rating for a glove material and chemical. The splash rating recommendations are based upon breakthrough time, chemical volatility and risk to health. You don’t necessarily want to maximize the breakthrough time alone. Pick the best overall rating. 

Below is a general and simplified guide to the gloves and most of the chemicals we use. 

Disposable Gloves 

Disposable gloves are great to work with as they provide high dexterity and eliminate the risk of exposure to chemicals left on a glove from a previous use. The four types of disposables we have in PEARL at the moment protect from most of the chemicals we use. Disposables are disposable and should be used as such. They are meant for splashes and unintentional contact only. If any chemical gets on a disposable glove, you should stop work and change to a new pair. After you are finished work in the lab they must be put in the garbage. To remove disposables, grab the cuff of one with your fingers and pull it off your hand rolling it inside out. Then with the bare hand grab the cuff of the other glove and do the same leaving the first glove inside the last. In this way you minimize the risk of exposing your skin to chemicals on your gloves. 

Nitrile Medical Examination Gloves. Catalogue numbers 27-058-5X:

Fisherbrand in blue box, blue gloves.

These are the only disposable gloves you can safely use with Naphrax mixed with 20% Toluene as a solvent. Gloves must be used when mounting slides with Naphrax as you can be exposed to the toluene in the Naphrax. Remember, blue disposable gloves are used with Naphrax. 

Other applications include 50% solutions of sodium and potassium hydroxide, 95% sulfuric acid, 70% nitric acid, 37% hydrochloric acid and 30% hydrogen peroxide.

Nitrile protects poorly against acetic acid and acetone. 

Synthetic, Non-Latex Medical Examination Gloves and Vinyl Medical Examination Gloves. Both made from PVC. Catalogue numbers 36-099-31XX, 11-394-120C:

Fisherbrand in red or green box. 

Poly Vinyl Chloride or PVC offers fair protection from Acetic Acid, good protection from 37% hydrochloric acid, 95% sulfuric acid, 30% hydrogen peroxide, 50% sodium hydroxide and excellent protection against 50% potassium hydroxide and 70% nitric acid. It performs poorly against acetone and is not recommended for toluene. 

Latex Medical Examination Gloves. Catalogue numbers 11-394-5XX:

Fisherbrand in gold box.

Some people are allergic to latex.

Latex provides good protection against solutions of 37% hydrochloric acid, 95% sulfuric acid, 30% hydrogen peroxide, 50% sodium hydroxide and excellent protection from 70% nitric acid. It is poor protection from acetic acid and acetone, fair against potassium hydroxide and is not recommended for toluene. 

Disposable Poly Gloves made from polyethylene. Catalogue numbers 11-394-11XX:

Fisherbrand in flat, blue and white box, clear/transparent glove.

Polyethylene offers good protection from 50% potassium hydroxide, 50% sodium hydroxide and 95% sulfuric acid. It offers fair protection from 37% hydrochloric acid, 70% nitric acid and 30% hydrogen peroxide. It is poor protection from acetone and is not recommended for acetic acid or toluene. 

Reusable Gloves 

The PEARL inventory has at least four types of reusable gloves. There are blue, long sleeved cryo-gloves in the Gamma counter room for protection from surfaces chilled by liquid nitrogen and yellow thermal gloves to be used on things up to 427C like the muffle furnace. 

We also have two main types of reusable chemical protection gloves.

We have green Ansell Sol-Vex Nitrile gloves that must be used when mixing pure toluene with Naphrax. Normally the technician should be the one to do this mixing and these gloves should be reserved for this purpose and perhaps spill cleanup. However, these heavy gloves are suitable against 50% solutions of sodium and potassium hydroxide, 95% sulfuric Acid, 70% nitric acid, 37% hydrochloric acid and 30% hydrogen peroxide. Nitrile protects poorly against acetic acid and acetone. 

If toluene is spilled on these gloves, they should be removed and hung in the fume hood for at least 30 minutes to dry. 

For most acid and base work as well as for acetone we have the familiar blue on yellow Neoprene gloves. They are often marked “Ansell 224” or “Chemipro”. Neoprene is the best glove we have to use against acetone providing fair protection. It provides good protection from 30% hydrogen peroxide, 70% nitric acid, 50% potassium and sodium hydroxide and fair protection against 95% sulfuric acid. Neoprene performs surprisingly poorly against acetic acid. This glove must not be used when working with toluene or Naphrax as it will hold the toluene against the skin and make exposure worse. 

Other, undetermined glove types are for dishwashing only. 

Reusable gloves get a lot of use and exposure to chemicals. Before using them you should inspect their condition. If the gloves are cracked or damaged, they should be thrown out and another pair donned. Be careful not to expose yourself to chemicals left on gloves by the previous wearer or by the work you just did. When finished your work, wash gloves with sparkle clean and let dry before putting them away. Let gloves exposed to toluene dry in the fumehood for 30 minutes at a minimum. 

The following web pages have information gleaned from several sources. Chemicals and appropriate glove types can be looked up at:


Chemical                                 Glove Types / Description

Acetic Acid                              PVC disposable

Acetone                                   Neoprene reusable / blue on yellow reusable. Ware disposable nitrile below.

Hydrochloric Acid                    Nitrile disposables

Hydrogen Peroxide                   PVC disposable

Nitric Acid                               Nitrile disposable

Potassium Hydroxide                PVC disposable

Sodium Hydroxide                    PVC or Nitrile disposable

Sulfuric Acid                             PVC or Nitrile disposable

Toluene                                    Nitrile / Sol-Vex, heavy green long cuff

Naphrax                                   Nitrile disposable