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Latex Allergies

Matter of Interest

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 15:47 :50 ): I rise to speak about latex allergies. The matter of latex allergies was brought to my attention by Dr Pooja Newman. Dr Newman attended the Adele concert at Adelaide Oval on 13 March this year and was unfortunately hospitalised due to exposure to latex from balloons which were released as part of the show. Like many others, Dr Newman developed an allergy to latex as a result of her career in medicine and exposure to latex products. She is now an allergy awareness campaigner and highlights the issues of safety in public spaces and workplaces.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction which can cause death. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners reports that the incidence of anaphylaxis is increasing. Latex allergies can develop as a result of persisted exposure to latex. I understand that approximately 12 per cent of healthcare workers in Australia have a latex allergy.

Dr Newman is campaigning for the new Royal Adelaide Hospital to be latex free. Whilst this may seem like a large undertaking I am advised that the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in the United States has been latex free since 2008, and that the state of Hawaii is currently considering a ban on latex gloves completely. Latex is not only found in gloves but also masks, eyewear, gowns, catheters, mattresses and tubing, amongst others.

Whilst the transition from conventional hospital products to latex-free products may seem costly, I understand it is usually cost-neutral and in the instance of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, they have actually found that there were savings as there was no longer a requirement to constantly treat anaphylaxis. Dr Newman is also concerned about the lack of labelling on latex products. Currently, there is no mandatory labelling of latex products, which can be fatal, especially if latex is used in conjunction with food products. Latex gloves may be used in the manufacturing of food products, which may contaminate the consumable.

Latex products are also used as part of adhesives to close packaging for some food products and can have serious consequences if consumed by someone with an allergy. With the increase in anaphylaxis, Dr Newman is also campaigning for better training and awareness of allergies. EpiPens are not standard in medical kits and children with allergies are required to supply their own EpiPens to childcare facilities and schools.

Without better awareness of allergies, anaphylaxis can occur at any time. A picnic in the park may turn deadly just because other patrons may have balloons. This was similar to what occurred at the Adele concert where Dr Newman was not exposed directly to a balloon, but rather to the dust proteins which were emitted and which can be deadly. In relation to that matter, Dr Newman has met with Adelaide Oval, who I understand are sympathetic to the cause and are considering announcements or warnings similar to what they have for laser and strobe effects. I commend Dr Newman for what she is doing on this very important issue.