The use of disposable medical gloves is an important element in warding off infection. The World Health Organisation says that “The efficacy of gloves in preventing contamination of health-care workers’ hands and helping to reduce transmission of pathogens in health care has been confirmed in several clinical studies.”
However, in another example of the crucial role of trust in the pandemic, not all medical gloves are equal. One expert, Douglas Stein, told a CNN investigation into a roaring trade in nitrile gloves that they are the “most dangerous commodity on Earth right now.”
Tens of millions of sub-sub-standard nitrile gloves have been imported into the US from Thailand. American suppliers were so desperate to source PPE that they inadvertently created a thriving market in counterfeit and recycled gloves.
“There’s an enormous amount of bad product coming in,” Stein told CNN, “an endless stream of filthy, second-hand and substandard gloves coming into the US of which federal authorities, it seems, are only now beginning to understand the enormous scale.”
One businessman told CNN that he had ordered about US$2 million of gloves from a Thai-based company called Paddy the Room. It wasn’t long before he was field complaints from outraged customers. “These were reused gloves. They were washed, recycled,” he said. “Some of them were dirty. Some of them had bloodstains. Some of them had markers on them with dates from two years ago… I couldn’t believe my eyes.”