Laboratory safety gloves are among the most ubiquitous and necessary of articles one can find when working with dangerous substances. They are common and mandatory tools for interacting with things such as acids, heated materials, or otherwise risky materials that need close and careful manipulation. Though when the gloves themselves pose just as much of a health hazard, or indeed possibly more of one, the issue of safety is not as clear-cut at simply protecting one’s hands.
Asbestos was a frequently used material in laboratory gloves before its hazardous nature was widely publicized. Its heat and flame retardant qualities made it understandably attractive for safety equipment. Though given its capacity to cause conditions such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, the users may have simply been trading one injury for another. As the gloves saw use and became older they would release small fibers into the air around them. With the gloves so often held near the face and body it was easy to inhale the fibers during use. Anyone making regular use of the gloves in laboratories or other settings may have been putting themselves at serious risk of constant exposure, all in the name of safety.
While many materials are now used to insulate laboratory gloves in place of asbestos, the damage done by the contaminated gloves often remains. Having been in use for so long, even after the risks became known to their manufacturers, takes its toll. Any asbestos source should be disposed of by those equipped to do so safely, even when said product is something that was formerly thought to keep its users safe in the first place.