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This site: < Latex: a hypersensitive issue > leads me to think that the answer might be: It depends on what is triggering your wife’s allergic response – the latex protein or some other additive. The article mentions neoprene as an alternative for latex-sensitive people, but also says “neoprene is vulcanized and may contain chemical additives that can initiate an allergic response upon contact”. Perhaps you should re-ask this question in the “Diving Medicine” forum. Good luck.
Latex is a natural rubber, neoprene is synthetic rubber.... I am allergic to neoprene but not latex.... The glues and chemicals used to produce neoprene cause a hypersensitivity in certain individuals. These chemicals are released when the neoprene gets wet.... A lot of items are made out of neoprene.... Knee Braces, Bottle Coozies, Mouse Pads, Tennis Shoe Collars etc.... You may touch Neoprene in a lot of different situations but not get a reaction until the neoprene gets wet.... I.E. Sweating under a knee brace, The best way to tell if your wife is allergic is to have her place a damp piece of neoprene on a test patch of skin and keep contact for over an hour.... A neoprene rash will resemble a bad case of poison ivy, w/ blistering etc..... in an area w/ soft tissue or open sores it will spread over the entire body.... the chemicals that cause this reaction are called Thiarum Mix Chemicals.... You can find more info at Scubadoc.com.... Good luck
My mom is severely allergic to Latex, and as a matter of discussion she is also allergic to neoprene. My step dad has to be very careful with his wetsuits (surfer), because even a little contact can cause a sever allergic reaction. My mom can have reactions if she gets in a car with a wet suit. Ivgonefishing has a great idea about testing it, but I would test wet and dry. Good luck
I have not researched this site but I found it to be at least more clear. According to their listing neoprene is a non-latex product. Again I have not researched the credibility of this site, but it's from the American Latex Allergy Association. Maybe this will help.
P.S. some wetsuits have a rubber coating at their edges - e.g. legs and arms. I have had adverse reactions to only these parts of the wetsuit. I don't believe that I am allergic to neoprene, but I am definitely allergic to latex - swollen red rashes that last 1.5-2 weeks.
Maybe I can inform a little bit about neoprene. Basically, like others mentioned, there are some chemicals involved in making neoprene, maybe the nastiest of which are the glues. I'm a Canadian living in Taiwan and a year or so back I started thinking about having a neoprene mask made (the kind where you can insert a filter). In the process, I learned that some factories can offer you a very good price, but the cheaper price often results in a product that causes the same of kind reactions you guys are talking about. A LOT of manufacturers in China will use the most toxic materials when making neoprene, because it is cheaper (sorry to rag on China). Most buyers know this though, and they continue to purchase, because of the lower cost. Find out where your wetsuite was made. You have a better chance of the material being safe (the safest is where they use 3M glues), if it is made somewhere like Taiwan or Korea.