We make gloves available, but I personally encourage students to wear them only in situations where they are warranted. In my judgment, in many labs the chemicals in use provide no significant skin hazard, especially when a quick rinse with readily-available tap water is possible even in instances where perhaps some dermal hazard might exist (for extended exposure.) The skin is a pretty good barrier, but there are surely chemicals that can destroy and/or penetrate skin. For some dermal hazards, the gloves that might "be routinely available=" in lab may not provide protection, either, so unlike splash goggles that provide virtually all-encompassing eye protection, "gloves=" might not protect the skin depending upon the chemical and the glove. Wearing the wrong glove may be worse than wearing no glove. And, this email thread is about "student labs=" where many of the most dangerous dermal hazards would be avoided in the first place. (HF in general chemistry? I think not!)
Also, unlike goggles, gloves are disposable, which incurs the cost that prompted this email thread. I don=E2=80=99t "discourage=" glove use, but (I think that) some students use them more routinely than others, and perhaps more than necessary (perhaps related to bouts of chemophobia that may not be warranted). Some students realize that gloves become uncomfortable to wear after awhile. Safety overrides comfort (as with some goggles, for some students), to be sure, but when there is no need for gloves why endure discomfort? Gloves may or may not hinder manipulations; in principle they shouldn=E2=80=99t, but inexperienced users don=E2=80=99t make what others might consider "good judgment=" in many situations.
Finally, I recall reading (about 40 years ago) some human behavior study that indicated that some drivers drove faster when wearing seat belts (when these were new devices in cars) since they "felt safer=" wearing the seat belt and therefore " felt safer to drive faster.=" (This was hardly the intended effect of wearing seat belts, and I=E2=80=99d guess not a universal response for all personality types.) But, I wonder, if some students won=E2=80=99t feel somewhat less need to be careful about spilling solutions or solvents when they are wearing protective gloves? Just speculation; no data, not even pseudo-data like an anecdote!
It could be argued that it is prudent to wear gloves all of the time (just as we mandate splash goggles all of the time) but for me, the arguments above about cost, comfort, lack of need in many lab situations, and the possibility of using the wrong glove material all argue for a more tempered, occasional use of gloves. Of course, one idiosyncratic allergic reaction by one student out of a thousand can lead to universal CYA-motivated use that, in my judgment, could end up doing more damage than good over the long haul for the other 999+ that follow. Alas.
P.S. Here is a list of resources that may be helpful regarding glove selection:
This chart is sorted by categories of chemicals. Gloves types are indicated; no thickness information.
This chart has an alphabetical list of chemicals. Gloves types are indicated; no thickness information.
General categories and characteristics of glove materials.
Allows users to search by either specific chemical or specific gloves. Extensive information provided.
Alphabetical listing of chemicals. Several glove materials listed, with thickness indicated.
Information on nitrile gloves for many chemicals.
PDF file with many gloves and chemical listed.
This chart has an alphabetical list of chemicals. Gloves types are indicated; relatively thick gloves tested.
David C. Finster
Professor of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Officer
Department of Chemistry
We provide them in our undergraduate chemistry/biochemistry labs, amid some gnashing of teeth over the cost! We do require students to purchase their own safety goggles. I don=E2=80=99t know what other undergraduate lab classes provide =E2=80=93 biology, geology, etc.
Debbie M. Decker, Campus Chemical Safety Officer
Environmental Health and Safety
University of California, Davis
1 Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616
Co-Conspirator to Make the World A
Better Place -- Visit www.HeroicStories.com and join the conspiracy
As the staff of the Chemistry & Biochemistry Teaching Labs, we have been asked to propose ideas for saving money, as budgets are only getting tighter over the next few years. One idea proposed is that we stop providing gloves ad lib. to students, but have them buy & bring their own. We currently supply either nitrile or PVC examination (thin, single-use) gloves in our labs.
Do you provide/require gloves for student labs?
Sheila M. Kennedy, CHO
Chemistry & Biochemistry Teaching Laboratories
University of California, San Diego
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