Do polycarbonate and/or polyurethane have latex?

Chemistry Asked on February 2, 2021

I have a severe latex allergy which hinders my health every day via hives, inflammation, and breathing trouble. I am trying to find a cell phone that is not going to cause anaphylaxis or other reactions. Neither smartphones nor their companies are smart enough to know what their products are made of.

I know from wheelchair experience that polyurethane bothers me. I believe it has latex or a latex-like component in its make-up, but I would like to clarify this.

It appears by touch that polycarbonate is not as bad, but it just depends on the item in question…and usually I have already reacted to something else before trying to touch this.

Could you verify/explain if polycarbonate or polyurethane have latex? For that matter does polyethylene?

3 Answers

I have a latex allergy and reacted to a charging cable - the manufacturer told me afterwards (when issuing my refund) that their PU was mixed with latex but that this isn’t always the case.

I would also agree with another comment that foam, especially low density foam, has latex in it (think make up sponges), the glue in some plasters does and also the shine on gloss paper is made by adding latex to the coating.

Good luck negotiating all the ways it’s in life, Nina xx

Answered by Nina on February 2, 2021

I have a severe latex allergy, what you're reacting to in the wheelchair armrest is the FOAM inside. Most foam contains latex. So if the foam is compressed, it puts some particles air borne that you're inhaling. I think you can get latex free wheelchairs/armrests, you have to look for it though.

Answered by Imhelendt on February 2, 2021

We have a general rule against "medical questions," but I think yours is different.

First off, latex is a form of poly-isoprene. The "isoprene" part here is the key chemical identity - the letter (so to speak) that repeats in the polymer.

So latex is chemically quite distinct from polyurethane and polycarbonate. Similarly, polyethylene and polypropylene are also distinct.

In short, from a chemical perspective, all of these materials are all different.

Now, that's not to say that:

  • You may have allergies to multiple polymers / plastics.
  • Manufacturers may blend multiple chemical components into one object.
  • Some latex residue may end up on various objects.

For example, many people in healthcare (as you know) use latex gloves, often with latex powder. Small amounts of the latex powder can remain on a wheelchair - causing problems for sensitive individuals like yourself.

If you're looking for a smartphone, you should be able to find one with a metal / glass case (e.g., iPhone, but also others). In that case, the amount of plastic (polymer) should be minimal and you (or a friend) can thoroughly wipe down the device before you use it (e.g, the wrapping plastic might cause sensitivity).

Answered by Geoff Hutchison on February 2, 2021

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