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Are Tennis Balls placed on chair legs a problem for latex allergic individuals?
Prior to 1870 tennis balls were made from leather or cloth stuffed with rags or horse hair. In 1870 when tennis became popular, India rubber was utilized to manufacture tennis balls. Charles Goodyear was instrumental in this change through his development of the manufacturing process to vulcanize rubber.
Today the majority of tennis balls are made up of two hemisphere of rubber joined together under pressure so that a core is formed which gives the tennis balls its specific properties and resilience. The fabric which covers the tennis ball is felt. The felt is woven onto a cotton backing or wrap which is composed of wool/nylon fabric. The felt fabric is sent to the ball manufacturing plant. The fabric is then cut into two dog bones after an application of latex backing and then stuck to a latex covered ball. The ball is then cured and logos are applied.
Today tennis balls are being inappropriately utilized for noise reduction and floor protection in schools and other public buildings. The tennis balls are cut in half and placed on the legs of chairs and tables. Cutting tennis balls causes them to release potentially harmful latex particles into the air. Since tennis balls are manufactured with rubber latex; when applied to the bottom of a chair, they are constantly being rubbed and ground releasing latex particles into the air which is potentially risky for individuals who are latex allergic.
Indoor air quality measured by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health(1) recommended in schools that latex tennis balls not be utilized as noise buffers due to introduction of latex particles into the environment as well as VOC’s off gases from the ball which are potentially harmful to latex sensitive individuals. It is recommended that tennis balls not be used in this manner.
The use of tennis balls in this manner is not recommended and is harmful to individuals who are latex allergic. An alternative for chairs would be Quiet Feet™ available from Acoustic Resources,LLC.
Question answered by:
Sandra M Gawchik, DO
Co-Director, Asthma and Allergy Associates, Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Upland Pennsylvania
Massachusetts Department of Public Health https://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-public-healthSearch tennis balls
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