Issue Date: September 24, 2007
I'd like to add some information to the article on latex allergies (C&EN, July 30, page 16). I doubt that "MBT (2-mercaptobenzothiazole) is used to accelerate polymerization during latex manufacture" because I believe that the most common types of latex gloves are made from natural latex. It could be that there is now a synthetic latex that could match the superior properties of natural latex, but I doubt that MBT is used in the process for making a synthetic latex. MBT is likely to be used in the curing of the gloves, whether they are made from natural or synthetic latex.
It has been part of folklore that there are enzymes in natural latex that cause the contact dermatitis that triggers the allergic reaction that some people have to gloves and other products made from natural latex. Perhaps the story here is that this allergy is not an inherent property of the latex but rather a result of an agent used in its curing.
I suggest another discussion with Paul D. Siegel to clarify how MBT came to be in the gloves that were used in this study. Perhaps this would suggest that a sample of similar latex might be cured somehow without MBT, or simply dried, to determine whether there is any other factor than MBT involved in this particular allergic contact dermatitis. It is good to know that MBT is a factor, but a wide range of materials can cause allergic reactions.
Benton R. Leach
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