Ozone will react with the double bonds in all rubber gloves, both natural (latex) and synthetic (nitrile and neoprene). The exact effect of time and concentration is difficult to estimate, however. Generally, ozone will have the same effect on rubber gloves as concentrated laundry bleach – in the short run the glove will be resistant, but as time passes it will become increasingly brittle. Eventually, the material splits or cracks, rendering the glove unfit for protective use.
The degree of reaction will depend on the amount and reactivity of the double bonds. Since stored gloves react slowly with oxygen in the air (in the same way that in-use gloves react with ozone), the typical shelf life of Ansell products can be used as a rough indicator of ozone-sensitivity. We find the shelf life of nitrile and neoprene gloves is three to five times that of natural rubber, so their ozone resistance should also be correspondingly greater.
Ozone is a trace element in the atmosphere. Lightening bolts produce it in nature, and humans produce it via the reaction of automobile exhaust with air in the presence of sunlight (ozone degradation from “photochemical smog” is a special problem in the Los Angeles basin). You also find higher concentrations in workplaces that have electrical generators and motors, especially if their brushes are worn (tiny sparks inside the motor produce small amounts of ozone, just like lightening bolts). Arc welding equipment also produces higher concentrations. Ozone degradation is not usually a problem if gloves are changed daily or on a regular basis on the job. It can be a problem if gloves are kept in long-term storage in a place with high ozone concentrations. So, in that case, what kind(s) of gloves can be considered ozone-resistant? As previously mentioned, nitrile and neoprene gloves offer roughly three to five times the ozone-resistance of natural latex gloves. Ansell brands such as Touch N Tuff, TNT, Sol-Vex, Scorpio, and Neox fall into this category. If ozone degradation is a real problem, we suggest using Ansell’s Barrier flat-film gloves, or any of our vinyl gloves such as Dura-Touch, VersaTouch, Snorkel, Monkey Grip, etc. These products are highly ozone-resistant because they have no double bonds.