Deal Opens Door to Production of Over 2 Billion Nitrile Gloves in U.S.

Frank Diamond

Frank Diamond has been with Infection Control Today since November 2019. He has more than 30 years of experience working for magazines, newspapers, and television news.

The U.S. Department of Defense signed a contract with a U.S. company that will boost capacity of nitrile glove production in the U.S. by 2.31 billion gloves per year by May 2023.

America’s dependence on foreign manufacturers for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) became all too painfully obvious during the first months to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the role of infection preventionists in the monitoring of the supply and proper use of PPE also became evident. As stockpiles of PPE became dangerously depleted, U.S. businesses both old and new shifted into entrepreneurial mode to address the problem.

A recent step in this direction was taken last week with an announcement by the U.S. Department of Defense that it signed a $63.6 million deal with a company called US Medical Glove to produce more nitrile gloves in this country. The deal was reached at the urging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“This effort allows US Medical Glove to increase production capacity of nitrile glove production by 2.31 billion gloves per year by May 2023,” US Medical Glove said in a press release. “The Pentagon contract ensures the resources necessary to guarantee quality, safety, technology improvement, customer service in the United States for medical-grade nitrile gloves.”

Also, at a time when the U.S. economy struggles to shake off the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic in which millions of people lost their jobs, the deal will create jobs in this country.

“As many as 3000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs will be created as US Medical Glove expands to as many as of 6 regional hubs, increasing availability, reducing costs to end users across America,” the company press release states. “Staffing will be driven by a Veterans First program, to offer not just jobs—but livelihoods to our nation’s transitioning military personnel.”

Nitrile gloves can be used in place of latex gloves, according to the to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guide to PPE, latex gloves provide flexibility and comfort while nitrile gloves are more durable and better able to protect the wearer from chemicals and punctures.

OSHA states that latex gloves “are comfortable to wear, which makes them a popular general-purpose glove. They feature outstanding tensile strength, elasticity and temperature resistance. In addition to resisting abrasions caused by grinding and polishing, these gloves protect employees’ hands from most water solutions of acids, alkalis, salts and ketones.” However, that agency adds that “latex gloves have caused allergic reactions in some individuals and may not be appropriate for all employees.”

As for nitrile gloves, OSHA says that nitrile gloves are made of a copolymer and provide protection from chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene and per- chloroethylene. Although intended for jobs requiring dexterity and sensitivity, nitrile gloves stand up to heavy use even after prolonged exposure to substances that cause other gloves to deteriorate. They offer protection when working with oils, greases, acids, caustics and alcohols but are generally not recommended for use with strong oxidizing agents, aromatic solvents, ketones and acetates.”

The deal also ensures that the machines to manufacture the nitrile gloves will be built in the U.S. and represents a “decoupling from China as the company brings the business of making high-performance industrial manufacturing equipment back to the United States,” US Medical Glove said in its press release. The company plans to buy about 1 billion pounds U.S. steel, and 535 miles of copper wire made in the U.S., among many other American made components that will be used in the manufacturing process.

Dylan Ratigan, a managing partner at U.S. Medical Glove, said in the press release that “we are honored to be called upon by our government to lead the solution to this problem. Industry and government leaders across the country have unified with us to ensure we exceed expectations on behalf of DoD and HHS for our country.”