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Latex Allergies 22 May 2013 14:51 #1

  • Ty
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This is a very long post about whether latex allergies can be caused by latex mattresses. I think the info will be useful to the forum. I also have some questions (mentioned at the end of the post) for the forum.

I am looking into getting a latex mattress but do have concerns about latex allergies. I do not have a latex sensitivity but would rather not acquire one. After considering the duration of exposure, I decided to do some investigating. I acquired the following articles from peer reviewed scientific journals about latex allergies and mattresses.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Development+of+latex+allergy+in+children+up+to+5+years+of+age--a+retrospective+analysis+of+risk+factors

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9226061

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10436396

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Identification+of+Hev+b1+in+natural+latex+mattresses

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16468057


Below is a summary of what I found.

Many latex mattress companies claim the proteins have been washed out of their latex mattresses. Studies have confirmed that most proteins in latex extract are not present in mattresses and thus must have been washed out or denatured in the processing. However, some proteins were still present in all 4 natural latex mattresses that were tested. The amount of protein varied greatly. Two had more protein per gram than gloves (a known cause of latex allergies). Two had less. Unfortunately the processing method used when manufacturing the mattresses or even whether they were Dunlop or Talalay mattresses was not specified.

Not all proteins cause allergies. Although we know that proteins are present in latex mattresses, are any of them actually allergens? The studies found that the serum of only 3 out of 21 latex sensitive humans showed an immune response when mixed with the proteins in the mattresses that were tested. All 21 serums reacted with unprocessed latex extract. Thus most allergens (not just most proteins) had been removed or denatured during processing; otherwise all the serums would have reacted to the mattresses. It is important to note that, one of the reactive serums reacted to all 4 natural latex mattresses. Thus some latex allergens were still present in all the mattresses tested.

The reduced number of allergens in mattresses would probably reduce the chance of sensitization to latex and may also mean that even some people with latex allergies would not have a sensitivity to latex mattresses. Nevertheless there are still some latex allergens in latex mattresses. The question is do people actually become latex sensitized from latex mattresses in real world conditions. After all extreme extraction methods (freezing, crushing, and solvents) were used to obtain the results above and the extract was directly mixed with serum from the blood of latex sensitive people. This is very different than lying on a latex mattress where the allergens are bound up in a latex matrix, there are layers of fabric between you and the mattress, and no allergens are being injected into your bloodstream.

Clearly it is possible to get latex allergies from real world exposure to latex without the extreme conditions in the studies. After all tens of millions of people have latex allergies. However, most of these people (medical workers, workers in the latex industry, people who have had multiple surgeries – especially at young ages) have had very unusual types of exposure to latex. For instance, latex gloves used by medical workers cause allergies primarily because the latex proteins attach to the powder in the gloves and become airborne and inhaled when the gloves are removed. This bypasses the protection of the skin. Also, people working in the latex industry are exposed to the raw latex extract which contains far more allergens than latex products. Furthermore manufacturing puts the latex through mechanical and thermal processes that could cause the allergens to become airborne. Having surgeries involve contact with surgical gloves inside the body. This bypasses all the body’s defenses against allergens, vastly increasing the potential for an allergic response. These are all unusual methods of contact with latex. They do not seem applicable to a latex mattress where the latex itself is rarely touched. Thus the question still remains, is it possible to get allergies from mattresses simply by sleeping on one for a long time.

To my knowledge there has only been one study that looked into whether latex mattresses in real world conditions actually cause latex allergies in humans (not just serum in test tubes). At the age of 3 years, having slept on a latex mattress did not affect whether a child developed a latex allergy. 3 years is not a huge period of time and very young children are different than adults so I do not know how applicable this study is to an adult sleeping on a latex mattress for 20 years. However, it should be noted that nearly 7% of the children did develop latex allergies. The number was simply the same for the ones who slept on latex mattresses as is was for the ones that did not. Thus the children were quite capable of developing latex allergies from other sources, but not from mattresses. Also, generally speaking, the younger you are the easier it is to get sensitized to anything because the immune system is still developing. Thus the study may apply to the general population.

It is also important to consider that the fact is that we are all exposed to allergens every day. They are in the air we breathe and what we eat and drink. Latex is common in day to day life (household gloves, erasers, elastic in underwear, pacifiers) and these items also contain latex allergens. If simple exposure caused allergies in most people, then everyone would have latex allergies. Obviously if lots of people who slept on latex mattresses became sensitized to latex proteins as a result, modern medicine would be aware of it.

Nevertheless, there is a risk that a small percentage of people who sleep on latex mattresses could develop a latex sensitivity from it. A small percentage would not be obvious and would not attract attention. The only way we would know about it was from studies or individuals who it happened to posting their experience on the web. I was unable to find any studies, except for the study on young children mentioned above, that attempted to correlate sleeping on a latex mattress with latex allergies. I heard that the FDA has a list of products that have been reported to cause latex allergies. I was unable to find any such list on the FDA’s website. By searching the FDA’s website, I was also unable to find any mention of mattresses causing latex allergies. By searching the web, I was unable to find any report of a person becoming latex sensitive from a latex mattress. By looking on the American Latex Allergy Association’s website I was able to find only one report of a person (Molly) having a sensitivity to a latex mattress. However, this person was latex sensitive before purchasing the latex mattress. This is interesting in that it suggests that latex allergens are able to escape from the latex mattress and interact with a person’s immune system. However, I am very hesitant to draw conclusions from one example. It could be that the person became exposed to another allergen (new bedding or pet) or a chemical (paint or a chemical used in the processing of the mattress) at the same time they bought the mattress. This other substance could have caused the problem rather than the latex allergens. I would really need more examples to draw conclusions with much confidence.

From all the above my best conclusion is that sleeping on a latex mattress does not cause sensitization to latex. I am uncertain whether people with latex sensitivities can sleep on one, but would urge caution.

My questions for the forum are:

Does anyone know if the FDA does actually keep a list of products that have been reported to cause latex allergies and if so where this list can be found?

Does anyone know of any real world reports of anyone actually becoming sensitized to latex from sleeping on a latex mattress?

Does anyone know of any real world reports (other than the report mentioned above) of anyone who is already sensitized to latex having an allergic reaction of any sort from sleeping on a latex mattress?

Does anyone have any other info about latex allergies that would be a useful addition to this post?

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Latex Allergies 22 May 2013 18:46 #2

  • milacqua
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I can't answer your questions but wanted to let you know that the work and thought you put in for this article is very much appreciated. Latex allergy? Obviously it exists but is probably so rare that it is considered a non-factor. I ordered a latex mattress today so we shall see.

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Latex Allergies 22 May 2013 20:26 #3

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Hi Ty,

Thanks for posting the links :)

As you know from your research (and the links you posted as well) most of the hundreds of pages of information online about latex allergies (and most of the concern as well) is with medical equipment ... and particularly latex gloves ... and there is not a great deal of information (or concern) with latex foam at least for people who don't have a type I latex sensitivity (in which case all natural latex should be avoided).

As you also mentioned ... most of the surface proteins that are responsible for most latex allergies have been substantially (but not completely) removed from latex foam.

Other causes for concern with latex allergies are powdered gloves (the allergenic proteins can bind with the powder and become an aerosol in the air and contact mucous membranes) and some of the chemicals used to manufacture both natural rubber and synthetic rubber (mainly the accelerants) which are apparently the cause of the skin sensitivity or type IV sensitivities.

A couple of the hundreds of online articles that are particularly good and very informative (even though they deal more with gloves or other latex medical equipment) are here and the following attachment from the Premier

This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF



There is also much more information and links to thousands of articles at the OSHA website and the FDA website and the CDC website .
ADMIN NOTE:Removed 404 page link | Archived Footprint: google2.fda.gov/search?requiredfields=-archive%3AYes&q=latex+allergy&requiredfields=

The only reporting mechanism I know of is the
FDA medwatch program but this is more focused on medical devices and equipment.

In all my conversations with retailers and manufacturers ... I have only ever encountered one report that was clearly a latex allergy reaction (with a Dunlop latex mattress).

It's rather remarkable to me that in all the online and anecdotal information available, there are almost no reports of latex allergies regarding mattresses.

Phoenix
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Latex Allergies 30 May 2013 13:47 #4

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Thanks for your kind response to my post. Good luck on your latex mattress. I will probably be ordering one as well.

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Latex Allergies 30 May 2013 13:48 #5

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Hi Phoenix,

Thanks for your reply. I was unable to find any evidence of sensitization to latex from mattresses on the links you provided. That fact and your comment about only encountering one report of a clear latex allergy are very useful. I do not know how many people have slept on a latex mattress for a significant period of time. However, I suspect the number is in the millions or tens of millions. If you have any info on this please let me know. If we assume 10 million and if latex mattresses caused latex sensitization in even 1% of the people who slept on them, 100,000 people would have been sensitized by them. It would seem like we would be able to find many reports of it. As you mentioned the lack of reports is remarkable. It makes me more confident that it is very rare for latex mattress to cause latex allergies.

The fact that the one example of latex sensitization you are aware of was from a Dunlop mattress is interesting. My knowledge of latex processing is limited. However, it seems the Talalay is washed more than Dunlop for reasons that I do not understand. Please let me know whether this is true. This would suggest that more allergens, particularly the ones not well bound into the latex matrix and thus more able to escape from the mattress, would be washed out. It is only one example, but interesting.

I was unaware of the extent to which many “latex allergies” are actually reactions to chemicals added to the latex. This makes the “chemicals in mattresses” issue loom larger. I will have to investigate it.

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Latex Allergies 30 May 2013 21:41 #6

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Hi Ty,

The fact that the one example of latex sensitization you are aware of was from a Dunlop mattress is interesting. My knowledge of latex processing is limited. However, it seems the Talalay is washed more than Dunlop for reasons that I do not understand. Please let me know whether this is true. This would suggest that more allergens, particularly the ones not well bound into the latex matrix and thus more able to escape from the mattress, would be washed out. It is only one example, but interesting.


Both Dunlop and Talalay latex are washed with clear water (I don't know the details of how many times each manufacturer washes their latex but it is a part of all latex manufacturing) but I think that any difference between the types of latex would be because there is more 100% natural Dunlop in the market while most Talalay is a 30% natural and 70% synthetic blend and the surface proteins that cause the true latex allergies are not in synthetic latex.

As you mentioned if it was an issue there I would also think that there would be many more reports from the millions of latex mattresses that have been purchased over the decades than there are. A sample size of one is not meaningful (that's one out of the people I have talked to not one out of the total of latex mattresses sold) so it would be more chance that it happened to be Dunlop than a meaningful "statistic".

Phoenix
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Latex Allergies 18 Nov 2013 07:22 #7

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Thank you for this interesting thread with many informative links. I have read most of them.

I have a long-standing latex allergy, which I believe is Type IV (contact dermatitis). Here's a descriptive link:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latex_allergy

Our choice to purchase a latex mattress was based on what we perceived as drawbacks to inner spring mattresses and the extreme comfort of latex. And, more importantly, the evidence that allergic reactions to latex mattresses appears to be extremely rare.

Our latex arrived in mid-October (2013) at about the same time as cold & flu season hit :( I had an acute upper respiratory infection that began the same week. This didn't seem out of the ordinary as many others in our household shared similar symptoms. Fast-forward about four weeks and I'm continuing to have (what I believe is) allergic rhinitis. Here's another link:

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000813.htm

Latex allergy is one of the factors that I will be investigating. Other items on my "differential" list include: indoor humidity, dust, possible food triggers, and other sleep system components (wool).

My current plan is:

#1) Test humidity with a hygrometer. (Has anyone ever used these?)
#2) Hire someone to do a thorough cleaning
#3) Embark on allergy elimination diet
#4) Sleep at my in-laws for 3-4 nights

Any suggestions are welcome! Let me say that I LOVE our new mattress and I'm really hoping that it isn't a factor in my symptoms. Now it's time for me to play scientist :blink: **

**Our latex is currently uncovered. Our mattress cover is scheduled to arrive Wednesday from SleepEZ. I'm optimistic that encasing it will also help.

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Latex Allergies 18 Nov 2013 11:08 #8

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Hi buttercupbetty,

Any suggestions are welcome! Let me say that I LOVE our new mattress and I'm really hoping that it isn't a factor in my symptoms. Now it's time for me to play scientist :blink: **

**Our latex is currently uncovered. Our mattress cover is scheduled to arrive Wednesday from SleepEZ. I'm optimistic that encasing it will also help.


There are specific tests that your doctor can perform to test for latex allergies including blood tests for type 1 allergies and skin tests that also test for the chemicals that are used to make the latex because this is the most common cause of the contact allergies/sensitivities ... not the actual latex itself.

If there are small particles or latex dust in the latex from cutting that are connected to the rhinitis then a cover would probably help and I've also seen a number of instances where a dust mite cover with small micron sized pores solved similar issues as well. Of course the dust mite cover would also solve other causes of allergic rhinitis (such as dust mites) so if it was successful then you wouldn't know for certain whether it's connected to the latex or other potential causes of rhinitis that the cover was preventing.

Phoenix
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Latex Allergies 18 Nov 2013 11:34 #9

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One way to determine whether the mattress is causing the allergy is to encase it an impermeable plastic mattress encasement and sleep on it. You will also need to clean the room and bedding and air out the room to get rid of any alleged latex particles. An impermeable mattress encasement is a moisture problem so it is probably not an ideal long term solution. However, if your symptoms clear up in a few days and then come back when you remove the encasement, it is probably the mattress.

Please let the forum know if it does turn out to be an allergy since that would be useful for future mattress shoppers. If it is a latex allergy you might be able to reduce or eliminate it with a dust mite mattress encasement. Although breathable, they do block a lot of small particulate matter and they might work for a latex allergy. It is hard to know without knowing the size of the alleged latex particles. Look for an encasement with the smallest pore size.

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Latex Allergies 18 Nov 2013 11:47 #10

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Hi buttercupbetty,

Any suggestions are welcome! Let me say that I LOVE our new mattress and I'm really hoping that it isn't a factor in my symptoms. Now it's time for me to play scientist :blink: **

**Our latex is currently uncovered. Our mattress cover is scheduled to arrive Wednesday from SleepEZ. I'm optimistic that encasing it will also help.


There are specific tests that your doctor can perform to test for latex allergies including blood tests for type 1 allergies and skin tests that also test for the chemicals that are used to make the latex because this is the most common cause of the contact allergies/sensitivities ... not the actual latex itself.

If there are small particles or latex dust in the latex from cutting that are connected to the rhinitis then a cover would probably help and I've also seen a number of instances where a dust mite cover with small micron sized pores solved similar issues as well. Of course the dust mite cover would also solve other causes of allergic rhinitis (such as dust mites) so if it was successful then you wouldn't know for certain whether it's connected to the latex or other potential causes of rhinitis that the cover was preventing.

Phoenix


I had forgotten about that. Do you think it's important to know whether or not I have a (serologically) diagnosable Type 1 latex allergy? As opposed to going on my symptoms?

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