The state joins five others in removing the allergen-containing material from kitchens.

By Jelisa Castrodale
Updated December 04, 2019

If you don't have a latex allergy, you probably don't consider how many products are made with latex, and how much of it you come in contact with on a daily—if not hourly—basis. Liz Knight is terribly aware of latex, because she could have a severe allergic reaction if she touched the buttons on her remote controls, some of her kitchen appliances, the handle of her hairdryer, exercise mats, the soles of her sneakers, and even some newspapers, because of the latex that is used in the printing process.

"I try to talk to as many people as possible about latex allergies. The more people that know about it, the more things can change," she told the BBC on Tuesday. "I'm determined not to let allergies take away everything in my life, and I'll work to improve things, not just for me, but for other people as well."

Knight serves as a global ambassador for Globalaai (Global Anaphylaxis Awareness and Inclusivity), an organization that advocates for the kind of change that can make public places safer and more inclusive for everyone. One of the causes that Globalaai supports is a ban on the use of latex gloves in restaurants and food preparation, and as of January 1, California will become the sixth state to require its food service workers to use latex-free gloves and utensils.

Credit: wilpunt/Getty Images

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 677 in early September, and it formally prohibits latex gloves and latex utensils in any "food facilities and retail food establishments." The legislation explains that up to 6 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to have a latex allergy, and that number increases to 17 percent among healthcare and food service workers. More than a third (34 percent) of children who have had more than three surgeries are also believed to have a latex allergy.

"The more often a person comes into contact with latex, the more likely the person is to develop a latex allergy. There is no cure for a latex allergy," the bill reads. "Once a latex allergy develops, subsequent exposures to latex often dramatically increase the severity of, and result in smaller amounts of latex inducing, an allergic reaction. Those who suffer from latex allergies may suffer from cross-reactive food allergies or asthma."

California resident Sarah Flickinger said the bill was a "game-changer" for latex allergy sufferers. “To be able to safely eat at restaurants throughout the state is a very big thing," she told the Davis Enterprise. "And it will help protect food service workers by lessening their exposure to latex in the workplace. They were being put at risk, and many are unaware of the potential impact."

Liz Knight believes that her own allergy developed because a number of other illnesses and sensitivities kept her in the doctor's office (or in the hospital) when she was a child. And, just as the bill states, her allergy has become significantly more severe as she has gotten older; she can have an allergic reaction by being in the same room with a latex balloon.

The bill says that latex alternatives made from nitrile, vinyl, or polyethylene will be required—and the non-latex gloves can often be more durable and offer better barrier protection than latex versions. And, most importantly, they're also not likely to trigger any allergic or anaphylactic reactions.

Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island have also passed legislation banning the use of latex gloves in restaurants and other food prep areas.