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4 Reasons Life Science Labs are still Experiencing Supply Shortages

As the COVID pandemic continues to twist and turn, life science labs are still experiencing supply shortages. We break down the main reasons why so many life science labs are still struggling to source consumables 18 months into the pandemic.

1. Increased Demand for COVID Testing

Supplies Microplates, transfer pipettes, filter tips, gloves, and other equipment typically needed for life science labs are also needed for hospitals, testing centers, and vaccine administration sites. The pandemic’s sudden arrival made it difficult for consumable suppliers to grapple with an unprecedented demand for a historically stable product.

2. Decreased Supply of Plastic and Polypropylene

This first point relates to another step back on the supply chain as plastic/polypropylene needed to make a variety of research equipment such as cell culture dishes, pipettes, centrifuge tubes, etc., are also in shortage. This is because of a strong worldwide demand for plastics in a variety of industries (including food packaging, automobile components, electronics, appliances, PPE). Plus, the pandemic gave rise to logistical problems that prevent the reallocation of plastic chemicals and plastics between markets.

In the periphery, the supply of plastic is also being interrupted. Winter Storm Uri disrupted the entire Texas and Louisianna oil and natural gas supply chain, increasing oil prices dramatically. On top of this, plastic plants routinely go through major maintenance shutdowns every three to five years. In the hopes of catching up with demand, most plants skipped the 2020 shutdowns. However, the shutdowns can no longer be delayed, these shutdowns are in addition to the 2021/2022 maintenance shutdowns already scheduled.

3. Foreign Supply Restrictions

Another reason for the lack of lab supplies is our heavy reliance on imported products combined with a foreign supply restriction. For example, Malaysia supplies around 67% of total gloves consumed globally. Although counties like Canada have had some relief in the case numbers, cases in Malaysia continue to surge. As a response to the surge, the Malaysian government restricted movement and economic activity in some parts of the country, shutting down manufacturing facilities. The glove sector was particularly affected by tight lockdowns with glove shortages expected to continue into 2022.

4. A Global Shortage of Shipping Containers

Even when supplies are available, the pandemic has stalled deliveries globally. Why? Air traffic has significantly slowed and there is a global shortage of shipping containers. The rise in consumer demand, the manufacturer’s rush to restock inventories, and the supply chain bottlenecks have more than quadrupled the worldwide average price to ship a 40-foot container from a year ago. Furthermore, shipping companies were not prepared to handle the extra pressure of demand and restrictions caused by the pandemic. For example, the Suez Canal blockage in March and bottlenecks at gateways in Southern California and China’s Yantian port have tied up ships at sea for days and weeks at a time, with the backups rippling across supply chains and leaving containers in short supply.

Although every stop along the supply chain is doing its best, supply issues for certain lab consumables are expected to continue until the emergency state of the pandemic is over. However, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been innovation. Globally, industries are adapting, improving their inventory and wait times. Canadian manufacturers are beginning to produce items domestically and demand is becoming more predictable as consumers are stockpiling supplies less and less. Overall, as the world continues to adapt to the pandemic, so will the supply chain.

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How to Select the Right Nitrile Glove for your Application

With so many varieties of Nitrile Gloves on the market it can be hard to know which one to pick. We spoke with our glove experts and came up with some considerations to help you make the right decision.

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on single-use, disposable, medical-grade nitrile gloves most commonly found in hospitals, medical facilities, dental facilities and laboratories.

All medical-grade gloves are Health Canada licensed as Class 2 Medical Devices, ensuring they have undergone rigorous testing to provide the strength and durability needed for your specific application. Health Canada guidelines also state that medical-grade gloves must be clearly identified as such by using specific words, (like “health care”, “examination”, “medical”) symbols or images that signify medical use. While non-medical gloves may be less costly, they are also less protective.

Glove size

We know hand protection is important in research and clinical laboratory environments. Proper protection starts with wearing appropriately sized gloves. Sizing can be tricky however as glove fit will often vary by brand and model. Finger length and palm width can vary from one model to another making your preferred glove a personal choice. Using an improperly sized gloves can result in hand fatigue, material stress and an overall less protective glove.

Glove Thickness

Glove thickness is most commonly measured in mils which is equal to one thousandth of an inch (or 0.02 millimetres). Thicker gloves provide more protection against breakthroughs but at the expense of hand dexterity and sensitivity. It is however important to remember that the thickness in different parts of the glove can vary tremendously, the cuff and palm are typically much thinner than the fingers. Always use caution when doing benchwork.

Glove Texture

While textured nitrile was once a novel feature for medical-grade gloves, most nitrile gloves produced today come with textured fingertips or are fully textured. The textured surfaces provide additional grip and can be especially handy when working in wet conditions

Accepted Quality Level (AQL)

Although all medical-grade nitrile gloves must meet a rigorous quality standard, a certain number of pinholes in every lot is accepted. Using random sampling, gloves are tested and given an AQL rating which represents the barrier integrity of the glove. The lower the AQL rating, the fewer the defects with AQL 1.5 being the minimum standard for medical applications. An AQL of 1.5 accepts the statistical probability that there are less than 1.5% of the products with defects in the batch of gloves.

Nitrile Chemical Resistance

Nitrile gloves have become the global standard for laboratory environments. They have broader chemical resistance when compared to latex and vinyl disposable gloves. They are however not impregnable. Organic solvents such as acetone, Ammonium Hydroxide, Carbolic Acid, Phenol and others can degrade nitrile. Surprisingly, latex gloves can be a better option in some instances. Please refer to chemical resistance charts.

A thicker glove will generally be more protective, but you must always be vigilant of safety in a laboratory environment.

Ultident Scientific has been a leading Canadian distributor of Medical grade nitrile examination glove for almost 30 years. Browse our glove selection today to find the perfect nitrile glove for your application

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