IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Testing the effectiveness of protective gloves against nanoparticles under conditions simulating their use in the workplace


The growing use of manufactured nanoparticles in industry and laboratories is inevitably leading to increased worker exposure to nanomaterials. While in the lab, nanoparticles are handled primarily in confined spaces, this is certainly not the case in industries where these products are manufactured, processed and handled. In these circumstances, a risk control strategy must involve the wearing of appropriate protective equipment. Although numerous studies have been conducted on respiratory protection equipment (disposable and full facepiece masks), very few have so far been done on skin protection and especially gloves. In addition, the few assessments that can be found in the literature are often contradictory.

This study consisted of three main parts corresponding to the goals defined at the start of the project. First, it involved designing a test bench that could apply dynamic triaxial deformations to the protective gloves to simulate their use in the workplace. In parallel, a rigorous sampling protocol was developed to minimize potential contamination. Nanoparticle concentrations in sampling solutions were measured by means of mass spectrometry, a technique having detection limits below one part per billion (ppb). The second major part of the project was devoted to learning more about the penetration mechanisms and transport kinetics of nanoparticles through glove materials. A number of mechanical or physicochemical phenomena were recognized as being responsible for the loss of integrity of the samples, making nanoparticle penetration easier.

Last, in light of the results of the first two parts, the final part of the study contains recommendations regarding the choice of protective gloves when there is a risk of nanoparticle exposure.

Five models of gloves and five types of manufactured nanoparticles were selected for the project. The gloves chosen were among those most commonly used in industry and laboratories. There were three models of nitrile gloves of different thicknesses, one latex model and one neoprene model. Two solutions of gold nanoparticles, one of silver, one of silicon dioxide and one of crystalline nanocellulose were studied. Of the five models of gloves, three showed satisfactory effectiveness against the nanoparticles used. Two of the nitrile models were rated poor in terms of effectiveness, and a warning even had to be issued for one of them, advising against its use for handling nanoparticles in aqueous solution.

The results of the study indicate that further research is needed. Certain parameters extrinsic to the materials that facilitate the passage of nanoparticles were determined and studied. Nevertheless, future research will still be necessary to define the role of nanoparticles more precisely and, in particular, the effect of certain inherent parameters such as shape, charge and functionalization. Furthermore, closer collaboration needs to be established with glove manufacturers to develop alternative glove materials that offer better protection against these particles.

Additional Information

Category: Research Report
  • Ludwig Vinches
  • Mohamed Zemzem
  • Stéphane Hallé
  • Caroline Peyrot
  • Kevin J. Wilkinson
  • Nathalie Tufenkji
Research Project: 2013-0060
Online since: October 11, 2016
Format: Text