Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. said Thursday that it will stop selling vinyl chloride gloves for use in preparing food, in response to a warning Wednesday by the Health and Welfare Ministry that the gloves contain hormone disrupters.
The gloves, used in the preparation of food in school kitchens, hospitals and restaurants, are sold through Dunlop Home Products Co., a wholly owned Sumitomo Rubber subsidiary based in Osaka. The firm will continue to sell the gloves for other uses, however.
S.T. Chemical Co., Okamoto Industries Inc. and other makers of similar products are likely to follow suit, industry watchers say.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday ordered local governments and 12 concerned organizations, including the Japan Food Hygiene Association, not to use vinyl chloride gloves for cooking. The warning was issued based on findings that boxed lunches sold in places such as train stations contain a high concentration of diethyl hexyl phthalate, a substance believed to adversely affect the reproductive systems of animals.
Scientists suspected the source of the contamination to be the gloves used by kitchen staff preparing the meals. The vinyl chloride gloves contain high levels of DEHP.
Companies involved in the manufacture and sale of the gloves have said the products are not harmful to humans, but they now say they will create DEHP-free products. A Dunlop Home Products official estimated that more than half of the gloves used in school kitchens are made from vinyl chloride.