Photo: Janet Eckles
We’ve all seen the signs papered around Olmsted, Hubbell and the residence halls — no latex allowed. Because of students with life-threatening latex allergies, all products have been banned from the campus. Even something as small as a stray balloon can set off an allergic reaction that requires a trip to the hospital.
Latex is a milky fluid that comes from the sap of rubber trees. According to the American Latex Allergy Association, while the actual substance is not harmful, the body confuses it for something that is. Latex allergies only affect 1 percent of the population, but that means there are still 3 million people that need to be cautious around everyday household items like rubber gloves and baby pacifiers. There are several types of latex allergies. Some people suffer localized allergic reactions from skin contact with the substance. Other people are fatally affected by simply inhaling it, with their airways closing up and their whole body going into shock. Other people, like health care workers, develop it over long periods of time by wearing latex gloves, and the symptoms are usually restricted to the areas that are in contact with the latex, like hands.
We’ve all been warned enough times and understand the grave importance of keeping latex out of the halls and free from the campus. However, some people have started wondering how this is going to affect this year’s Relays. Underclassmen marvel at the painted street, coated with latex-based acrylic paint, and upperclassmen fondly remember the campus dotted with balloons. It would be a shame for anybody to miss out on Relays due to an allergy. Fortunately, the Drake Student Activities Board has been on top of this.
Senior Elizabeth Watton of the SAB Relays’ Committee recognizes that in past years, acrylic paint has always been used for street painting and will continue to be used.
“We were told that the latex allergy is specific to balloons, so acrylic paint will be fine,” Watton said.
SAB had contemplated switching to possibly an oil-based paint just to be safe, but after receiving the news that there was no problem, and since acrylic is cheaper and lasts longer, it decided to use the same stuff as always for Street Painting this year.
Watton mentioned that steps will still be taken to ensure the campus is balloon-free for Relays. On April 9, the Relays Committee wakes up early to decorate the campus — streamers, chalk, ribbons and balloons — to help boost enthusiasm and school spirit for the upcoming Relays. The only difference is that balloons will not be used this year.
“Latex-free balloons are a little bit expensive, so this is really forcing us to get creative,” Watton said.
The only other event that uses balloons is Blitz Day, which falls on April 12 this year. Once again, SAB will have to revise its decorations, though students have no doubt it will still be unforgettable. Drake Relays are all about bringing the campus together, including those with health issues. Every student should have the right and ability to participate in this time-honored tradition.