Contact allergy to plastic gloves is rare. Benzisothiazolinone is a biocide that is mainly used in industrial settings. We first suspected delayed-type contact allergy to benzisothiazolinone from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) gloves in 2004. We looked through our medical records from 1991 to 2005 to find similar cases.
We found a total of 8 patients who are allergic to benzisothiazolinone and who had had exacerbations of their hand dermatitis while using PVC gloves. Patch testing revealed that 3 of them had weak allergic or doubtful reactions to the glove materials. Six of them had used Evercare Soft, Medi-Point, or Derma Grip PVC gloves, which in chemical analysis were shown to contain 9 to 32 ppm of benzisothiazolinone. Seven of the patients worked in dentistry or health care and 1 in farming. All of them had had hand dermatitis for many years.
To our knowledge, there have been no previous reports of contact allergy to antimicrobial agents in plastic gloves. Benzisothiazolinone is widely used as a biocide in the manufacture of disposable PVC gloves. Small amounts of benzisothiazolinone in the gloves may sensitize those who already have hand dermatitis. We recommend that all patients with hand dermatitis while using PVC gloves should be patch tested with benzisothiazolinone.