Health and Safety – Myth Buster

True or False: Do nitrile gloves have an expiration date?

Nitrile gloves (photo by KOchstudiO)

True: Disposable nitrile gloves for laboratory use have a shelf life of three to five years (depending on the manufacturer and the specific product). You will find the expiration date printed somewhere on the box of gloves (usually on the underside). It means much the same as a ‘best-before’ date on food packaging – the product should still be safe to use but may no longer be at its best. Manufacturers will guarantee their products for the duration of the shelf-life but not beyond; therefore people should be discouraged from using them after this time has elapsed. This is especially important when the gloves are used for handling substances with a short ‘breakthrough time’ (the time taken for a substance to permeate through material of the glove).

It is important to select the correct gloves for each application. However, if the gloves are ‘out of date’, there is an increased likelihood that they will break/tear and there can be an increase in the rate of glove degradation and/or substance permeation. Regardless of whether you have picked the right type of glove, this essentially makes them useless. As with any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), it is also vital to remember that gloves only protect the person wearing them from contact with the substance and not their fellow lab users.

Being aware that the expiration date even exists for these gloves should be enough to prevent wastage from discarding ‘out of date’ boxes – stock checks and stock rotation can help to avoid over-ordering and ensure that products are used when they are ordered (and not lost at the back of a cupboard!).

Please speak to your local Health & Safety Manager, Officer or Coordinator if you have any further questions on the use of gloves. You may also like to refer to HSE website 'Choosing the right gloves to protect skin: a guide for employers' and the European Standard EN 374 for some further reading.

Written by Becki Harrison
Becki Harrison, Health and Safety Officer
in the School of Earth and Environment

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