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A look at the push to ban latex in restaurant kitchens

Jun 13, 2023

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Anywhere you look you might see something made with latex: balloons, gloves, tires and duct tape, just to name a few.

While many people may not take a second look, someone with a latex allergy likely has to leave the vicinity, or face going into anaphylactic shock.

"My bottom line is to not feel isolated, to tell others they don't have to be isolated," said Kim Dils, a woman from Derby who learned she had the allergy about 20 years ago. It was not until she had a near-death experience from a latex catheter after surgery that she realized how serious the allergy is.

According to the National Library of Medicine, more than 331 million people worldwide have it.

"Your skin isn't flexible because it's just filled up with this fluid from reaction…They did tell me I coded and that was pretty scary," she said.

Ever since then, she and her husband have been extra cautious about attending events with latex balloons for decorations and restaurants that may use latex gloves in the kitchen.

"The kitchen's contaminated," said Dils. "Latex sheds, like you scratch your skin and how you see dry skin, latex does the same thing. It sheds."

Given her experience and the testimonials of others in Facebook groups, she is now pushing for New York state to join the list of places where latex is banned in restaurant kitchens.

It's a feat that just thinking about brings Dils to tears.

"Just to be recognized is huge," she said. "I picture myself standing behind, like you see on the news and you see the person who's fought for that legislation."

Dils said she knew very little about the legislative process at the start of her advocacy, but now she has a list of phone numbers and representatives she calls. She said some legislators seemed to have open ears but others did not seem receptive.

Suffolk County enacted the ban in July 2021. Dils said her hope is to get the same legislation enacted in Erie County and eventually the whole state.

"[What] I hope to accomplish is that people with latex [allergies] in general can feel safe going different places," said Dils.