Nickel Chloride in Nitrile Gloves Can Bring on Allergic Contact Dermatitis AKA Eczema

For the first few years after my allergy and eczema diagnosis, nitrile gloves were a big part of my life. I wore them to do my hair in an effort to protect my skin from repeated exposure to possible hidden ingredients... to cook dinner so no juice from food got into the eczema on my hands. Nitrile gloves were even worn to go fishing in an effort to protect myself from nickel in the hooks and tackles.

By the way, I'm pretty awesome at fishing. Don't let that dinky fish in photo fool you. I DOMINATE. I swear.

Back to the gloves... I even wrote a blog post about how awesome they are. Little did I know...

I originally chose nitrile because a doctor advised against latex since it's such a common allergen. The next choice was vinyl which I tried and was alright, but not great.

THEN I tried nitrile and was completely sold for one reason alone: I could actually feel textures through the gloves and that was a huge advantage - especially because I had to wear them so often.

About eight months ago, I ran out of the gloves and went without for a handful of days... and my skin improved. This made me wonder... was that person right about nickel allergy being a problem with nitrile gloves? So, I went without them a little longer... and the eczema on my hands was pretty much GONE.

I quickly remembered a reader mentioning to me that people who are allergic to nickel should stay away from the gloves...

I bought another box of gloves because I just HAD to know. I put them on to prep dinner and by the end of it my hands were hot, itchy and I could feel a couple spots that I knew would develop into bumpy eczema patches... and they did.

That was it. That's all that I needed. I haven't touched them since... and the skin on my hands is consistently SO much better. Sure, I get tiny patches here and there, but sometimes I actually have weeks of zero allergic contact dermatitis in between those tiny patches.

Now convinced that I was having allergic reactions to nitrile gloves, I had to do some research...

At first I did a bunch of searching online but didn't find anything right away. And then I thought - I really need to find that comment on my blog.

It didn't take much searching before I found it on my post titled, "Triumphantly Adjusting to a Disaster", which I wrote when water rained from the ceiling of our basement (ugh). This forced us to stay at my husband's parents' home all of a sudden... and a quick change of environment can be tough on somebody with allergies and eczema.

But anyways!

I ended up finding the comment.

I am SO GLAD you guys tell me these things because we are all learning from each other. 

There's so much to know with chemical allergies that we've got to help each other spread the knowledge around.

Here's part of the comment:

“I have been using cortisone when my hand flares up and it has only happened a couple of times since I was diagnosed. Fast forward to this week. I spent 3 hours working in my worm bins and my hands got sweaty again in my nitrile gloves. Guess what? I woke up with dyshidrosis on my palm again. So I began researching online and learned about a possible link between nickel allergy and dyshidrosis. That led me to my next search: nitrile gloves +nickel and that’s when I learned that nickel chloride is used to make nitrile.

I ran across your blog while researching disposible glove allergies and just wanted to warn you. I’ve just begun researching this so I don’t know very much. I have learned that accerators used in glove manufacturing can be allergic catalysts and that there are some gloves that there are now gloves being made that are accelerator free because so many people have developed allergies. I don’t know whether nickel is an accelerator or whether it is a key component. I’m hoping I can find a nickel free nitrile glove because I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t. For now I am going to limit my exposure and not wear them long enough for my hands to sweat. If I can’t find a nickel free glove I will have to start wearing cotton glove liners and buy the gloves a size larger.”
— Allergista reader

Now that I had my information, I was on my way. I began plugging search terms into Google and as I dug deeper and deeper, I validated what this reader was saying:

Nickel chloride is definitely used in the creation of some nitrile and latex gloves.

Also, nickel chloride sounds really dangerous!

So, what is nickel chloride exactly?

“Nickel(II) chloride (or just nickel chloride), is the chemical compound NiCl2. The anhydrous salt is yellow, but the more familiar hydrate NiCl2·6H2O is green. In general nickel(II) chloride, in various forms, is the most important source of nickel for chemical synthesis. The nickel chlorides are deliquescent, absorbing moisture from the air to form a solution.”
— WIkipedia
“Nickel Chloride is a golden-yellow powder. It is used in electroplating and ink manufacturing.”
— The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services

Ok, nickel chloride contains nickel (nickel's element symbol is Ni which is part of the chloride compound) and it's a yellow powder... aaaand it sounds like nickel chloride probably gets used in a wide range of chemical processes.

Then I stumbled upon the hazards of nickel chloride on the New Jersey Department of Health website.

It states that nickel chloride causes:

  • mutations
  • can affect your body when breathed in
  • can irritate and burn your skin and eyes
  • repeated exposure can affect your kidneys
  • repeated exposure can also cause scar tissue in your lungs
  • can cause allergic reactions
  • can induce asthma-like reactions

What the hell? I hate reading stuff like this and knowing these hazardous materials are going right onto our skin and therefore getting absorbed into your bloodstream. By the way, you can download the whole PDF about the hazards of nickel chloride from the New Jersey Department of Health here.

Now about the accelerators, I found this:

“Chemical accelerators / promoters are a common component of glove manufacture and residual amounts of these chemicals have been implicated in type 4 allergic responses from a number of glove materials including latex and more recently nitrile. However, different manufacturers may use different cocktails of chemicals and therefore their products may exhibit different allergenic responses, for example SHIELDSkin nitrile gloves from Shield Scientific are currently manufactured using only carbamates, which they claim reduces their allergenic potential.”
— University of Cambridge

Well, freakin' fantastic. Sigh. It really is true.

No more nitrile gloves for me unless they're by SHIELDSkin or unless I do some research first... same with latex gloves! Sounds like vinyl may be the way to go...

I'll have to try them out next time we go fishing!

Isn't it amazing how our allergens can show up in places you'd never ever imagine?

 

sources: NCBI, nj.gov, wikipedia, safety.admin.com