Protect yourself for safe pesticide application

When applying pesticides, wear personal protective equipment to protect yourself from pesticide exposure. How do you know what to wear? Each pesticide label lists the protective equipment that you are required to wear during mixing or application. The requirements are NOT the same for all pesticides. Some pesticides may only require waterproof gloves in addition to regular work clothing. Other labels may require chemically-resistant gloves and coveralls, goggles, and a respirator.

What is required depends on the toxicity of the active and inert ingredient(s) in the formulation of the pesticide that you are using. Look for the 'precautionary statements' section on the label. It describes the minimum amount of protective equipment that is required for using the product.

Protective equipment requirements may differ depending on why you are handling the pesticide. For example, some pesticides require more personal protective equipment to be worn during mixing and loading. This is the time when you are working with the concentrated pesticide. During application, however, less personal protective equipment may be required. In some cases, when making applications from a tractor or sprayer cab, the required equipment is further reduced. If you have a problem during spraying and you need to go into the treated field, you will need to have extra equipment available to either make repairs or walk in the treated field.

The goal of wearing personal protective equipment is to avoid exposure to the pesticide. Pesticide penetrates the body mainly through the skin, but can be through the lungs, mouth, and eyes. Once in the body, the chemicals get into your bloodstream and can cause poisoning symptoms, which can be severe and even require medical attention.

Where can you purchase personal protective equipment? Your chemical or local agricultural supplier has the materials you need or the contact information for suppliers from whom you may order. A listing of 'Sources of personal protective equipment' can be obtained by contacting your Iowa State University Extension county office and requesting publication PAT 13.

If you do become ill during or after pesticide application, make sure you obtain help. Symptoms may include -- but are not limited to -- excessive fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, eye irritation, diarrhea, general weakness, and chest discomfort. If you or others experience any of these symptoms after using or coming in contact with pesticides, seek medical assistance or help from the Poison Control Center. The Poison Control Center phone number is 1-800-222-1222 and is listed in the front of your phone book. Always have the pesticide label available for medical reference.

Remember to keep pesticides and other chemicals out of the reach of children and away from animals. Refer to the label and have a thorough understanding of each pesticide that you use in your operation. Always follow the pesticide label and make sure you have the correct personal protective equipment available before you start mixing and applying pesticides. An extra set or two of the required equipment is good to have on hand to replace materials that are damaged or torn.

This article originally appeared on pages 36-37 of the IC-492 (7) -- May 10, 2004 issue.

Updated 05/09/2004 - 1:00pm