British Society of Cutaneous Allergy (BCSA)

Rubber accelerators (thiuram, carba, mercapto mix, mercaptobenzothiazole)

What are the aims of this patient information leaflet?

This leaflet has been written to help you understand more about your contact allergy. It tells you what a contact allergy is, what causes this allergy and what you can do about it.

What is contact allergy?

Dermatitis, also known as eczema, describes a type of inflammation of the skin. Contact dermatitis or contact eczema is a term used when this inflammation is caused by direct or indirect skin contact with something in your environment. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your immune system causes allergy to a very specific chemical or substance that has been in contact with the skin.

What causes your specific allergy?

Your patch tests indicate that you have a contact allergy to rubber accelerators.

What is rubber accelerators?

These chemicals are also known as rubber accelerators and are added to rubber during processing.

What are some products that contain rubber accelerators?

  • Gloves including those used for medical and dental examinations, household, gardening and protective heavy duty gloves.
  • Footwear including shoes (soles and insoles), rubber boots and flip-flops
  • Clothing including elasticated clothing, masks, swimming goggles, diving suits, watch straps
  • Personal care products such as eyelash curlers, make up sponges, condoms
  • Medical items including compression bandages, support bandages, walking stick handles, some compression hosiery
  • Household items such as hot water bottles, rubber bands, earphones, TV remotes, carpet underlay, balloons, air mattresses, mobile phone cases
  • Equipment including grips on lawnmowers, motorcycles, bikes, vacuum cleaners, polishers and wheelchairs, escalator hand rails
  • Sports equipment including grips and equipment, squash balls
  • Work place including tyres and rubber hosing.

They may be found in natural rubber latex and synthetic rubber products such as nitrile. Labelling is poor or non-existent so it is rarely possible to know whether a particular rubber product contains the chemical to which you are allergic.

Remember, always check the label, these lists can never be complete and ingredients change.

How can I manage my allergy?

This means that you should avoid putting products containing rubber accelerators onto your skin in the future.

Most latex and nitrile gloves should be avoided. Vinyl (PVC) or plastic gloves will be fine to use however these may provide inadequate protection for some types of work. If you need to wear rubber gloves for work you will need to liaise with your occupational health department to obtain ‘accelerator-free gloves’ for you. DermaPrene gloves are accelerator-free.

The best shoe to wear is all leather, plastic or wooden. Rubber insoles should be removed and replaced by insoles made of piano felt, cork or plastic. Old  shoes tend to cause more problems than new, as sweating leaches accelerators out of shoe rubber. Contaminated old socks should be discarded.

Some elasticated tubular bandages (e.g.Tubigrip) and some compression bandages (e.g.Actico) contain rubber and should be avoided. Compression stockings made from Elastane, Lycra or Nylon are usually free from rubber but it is important to check with the supplier.

Self-care (what can I do?)

Always check the ingredient listing on the product, package or package insert as these lists can never be complete and ingredients change. This is particularly important for any products purchased outside the EU where some allergens may not be banned.

Created: 2016