Black rubber allergy is a type of allergic contact dermatitis. A number of different rubber chemicals can cause allergic contact dermatitis.

Black rubber is a term used to describe the black parts of an object that are made from rubber. It’s often found in things that are designed to be held, such as tools, steering wheels and handles.

Traces of chemicals called accelerators are added to the rubber to make it harden more quickly or resist getting soft in heat. Some accelerators can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Natural rubber vs black rubber

Rubber is a natural and recyclable material. Natural rubber is made from the milky sap of a tropical tree called Hevea brasiliensis. Poly-cis isoprene is the major component in this product.

Winter Tires Tire Service Tire  - Mylene2401 / Pixabay
Mylene2401 / Pixabay

Synthetic rubber can be manufacture by following various methods. Polymerization of styrene and 1,3-butadiene results in most commonly used synthetic rubber.

Black rubber contains natural rubber with other chemical ingredients. They are;

  • N-Isopropyl-N-phenyl-4-phenylenediamine
  • N-Cyclohexyl-N-phenyl- 4-phenylenediamine
  • N,N Diphenyl-4-phenylenediamine

What is black rubber?

The main ingredient in most types of rubber is latex. Black rubber is made from natural rubber latex and contains sulphur, which makes it black. This gives the rubber a strong smell.

Black rubber is a term used to describe the vulcanized synthetic rubber that is found in black color. This is done to increase its durability and strength, reduce its permeability, and protect it from ultraviolet degradation.

Black rubber is found in some types of tires, flooring, adhesives, and other products. Rubber gloves are among the most common sources of black rubber allergy. Black rubber is used as a protective coating on metal parts that come in contact with the skin.

Where is black rubber found?

Black rubber may be found in the following:

  • Electric cords, Hand grips, Cables
  • Gaskets, Pipes, Rubber pads
  • Rubber bands, Rubber sponges, Springs
  • Tires, Tubes, Garden hoses, Helmets, Grippers, Toys
  • Some catheters, Condoms, Gloves, Head rests

Black rubber mix is not a specific product but rather a description for any blend of chemicals found in black latex/rubber products. Therefore many product names can be given to the same black rubber mix ingredient list.

Accelerators used in making black rubber

Accelerators that used to be added to black rubber were usually thiurams, carbamates and mercaptobenzothiazoles (MBT). These chemicals can cause contact dermatitis (an allergic skin rash) in some people. But they’re now less likely to be found in some products because they’ve been replaced with other chemicals to a certain extent.

How does black rubber allergy occur?

An allergic reaction is caused by your immune system mistakenly thinking something harmless, such as a chemical, is harmful to your body. This causes your immune system to produce antibodies that “attack” the chemical – a process known as sensitisation.

If you come into contact with the chemical again, your immune system recognises it and produces antibodies and chemicals such as histamine – this causes inflammation and irritation that leads to contact dermatitis symptoms.

Carba mix allergy – What is it?

Carbamates are a collection of chemicals used as accelerators to enhance the vulcanization procedure of rubber. Vulcanization is a chemical process that involves adding sulfur to rubber to make it more durable and resilient.

Carba mix contains;

  • Diphenyl guanidine
  • Zinc dibutyl dithio carbamate
  • Zinc diethyl dithio carbamate

These chemicals can be found in rubber in small amounts. Individuals with allergy to these chemicals can mount an allergic reaction to synthetic rubber.

Mercapto mix allergy – what is it?

Mercapto mix refers to a mixture of chemicals used in making vulcanized rubber. These compounds are used as accelerators of chemical synthesis of black rubber.

Mercapto mix has;

  • N-Cyclohexylbenzothiazyl-sulfenamide
  • Dibenzothiazyl disulfide
  • Morpholinyl mercapto benzothiazole

These substances although in minute concentrations can provoke an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. Therefore, synthetic rubber with mercapto mix should be avoided by sensitive individuals in order to prevent allergic reactions.

Thiuram mix allergy – what is it?

Thiurams are chemicals used in black rubber synthesis. Compounds that belong to the class of thiurams are considered as fast accelerators. Small amounts that may remain in the final form of black rubber can provoke an allergic reaction in individuals who are sensitive to this particular material.

Thiuram mix may be found in black adhesives, fungicides, black rubber tubes, electricals etc.

Symptoms of black rubber allergy?

Typical symptoms of an allergic contact dermatitis include;

  • Severe itching
  • Dry and cracked skin
  • Oozing and blistering
  • Swelling of skin
  • Burning sensation on skin
  • Red color rash on skin
Cold Headaches Health Influence  - sweetlouise / Pixabay
sweetlouise / Pixabay

Allergic reactions can be severe and can result in anaphylaxis which can be harmful to life and requires urgent medical attention.

What if you have black rubber allergy?

Read labels

Go through the ingredients of products before using them. You need to carefully investigate if the product contains the allergic materials.

Tell your employer

If your occupation is related to these allergens you need to inform that you are specifically allergic to certain materials. You can discuss regarding protective clothing and equipment or else methods to minimize contact and exposure to allergens at the workplace.

Tell your hairdresser

Hair care products may contain allergens that can be harmful for your health. Discuss with your hairdresser regarding your specific allergens and ask beforehand if the chemicals they plan to use on your hair contain those allergic ingredients.

Discuss with your doctor

Discuss with your doctor regarding the allergies you have. This can help to treat your allergies and to make an action plan to prevent exposure to the allergens. On the other hand, your medical practitioner may refer you to an immunologist to investigate you further regarding your other possible allergies.

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Chaleepa Mallawa

Chaleepa is working as a doctor based in Sri Lanka. He has interest in content creation based on health, science, tech and motivation.