Solution for Common Allergen Latex Rubber

Natural rubber is a naturally occurring thermoset elastomer harvested in the form of latex from a variety of rubber trees.  It is often referred to as Natural Rubber Latex (or NRL). Latex is a sticky, milky colloid (a substance in which microscopically dispersed insoluble particles are suspended throughout another substance). Natural rubber exhibits excellent elastic properties including its ability to recover to its original length after elongation.

Natural latex rubber is used in a number of applications including rubber gloves, tubing, condoms, balloons, windshield wipers, conveyor belts, marine products, tourniquet bands, as well as many other industrial, consumer, and medical applications. One of its drawbacks is it is sensitive to ozone and UV light, it will crack if exposed.

Natural rubber latex and some of the chemicals used to process the latex into a usable form are allergens. These allergens may cause mild to severe allergic reactions in some individuals, including anaphylactic shock.

For those sensitive to latex and/or chemical allergens, the following can occur within minutes or up to hours after exposure to natural rubber:

  • Skin reactions including hives and itching
  • Mild respiratory reactions ranging from sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose
  • More severe respiratory reactions include shortness of breath, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, and swelling of the throat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting, stomach cramps)

Styrenic block copolymers (SBCs) thermoplastic elastomers are a “latex free” alternative to natural latex rubber. tourniqetThey have a physical property and performance matrix similar to natural latex rubber. However, these materials are non-allergenic and safe for use in medical applications, as well as other uses noted above. In addition, they are easily colored and are available in clear. They are highly versatile in that functionality can be added through compounding steps and additives. The formulation components in SBCs are inert so they are safe for use on the skin, in the body (must test), as well as around food and drink. In addition, SBCs have great UV and ozone resistance, unlike natural rubber latex.

Next time you need an elastomer with highly elastic properties that is “health safe” and latex free, SBC thermoplastic elastomers are excellent candidates for your application. To see more about our product offering, click here.


For more on natural rubber click here. Learn more about natural rubber allergy, click here.

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