Layering your way to better protection
By Top Crop Manager
Protecting yourself from exposure to pesticides has one basic rule: Wear protective clothing and equipment.
"Wearing protective clothing is a farmer's main defense from exposure to pesticides. There are more specific details, but the most important thing is to protect yourself and your family from unnecessary exposure," says Karen Malyk, a protective clothing research associate with Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.
Multiple layers are the style for protective clothing. "We recommend multiple layers as the best way to protect yourself when handling pesticides. The more layers, the more protection you have," she adds.
Basic protective clothing includes a long sleeved shirt, full length trousers, coveralls, unlined nitrile or neoprene gloves, neoprene over-boots or long rubber boots and a wide brimmed hard hat with a plastic hat band.
The first layer is the long sleeved shirt and full length pants or jeans. Both limit pesticide exposure to skin. Cover these with cloth or disposable coveralls. "Some people wear both for extra protection," she adds. "The disposable coverall has an extra benefit of a hood. This protects your head and makes the coverall fit better." Before buying a disposable coverall, read the label and ask questions to make sure the coverall is recommended for the pesticide being used.
Gloves should fit properly to allow fine work such as adjusting sprayer nozzles. For added safety, form a cuff on the glove and wear it under the coverall sleeve. This prevents spills and splashes from running down arms. It is also recommended that whoever handles the pesticide clothing before it is washed wear protective gloves.
If protective clothing becomes saturated, don't try to wash it. Dispose of it in a plastic bag at an approved landfill site.
"Both gloves and disposable coveralls have a limited lifespan. If they rip, get holes or severe pilling, replace them," adds Malyk.
High rubber boots or neoprene over-boots are a must. Wear pants outside the boots so a spill doesn't run down the inside of the boot.
A hard hat is the final piece of basic protection. "This keeps spray off your head. A hard hat is also easy to clean with soap and water," she says.
Extra protection for handling concentrates and particularly more toxic products includes a variety of other safety equipment such as waterproof apron, goggles, face shield, ear plugs and respirators.
"Check the pesticide label. It will usually note the recommended protective clothing and equipment," recommends Malyk.
"If you have any questions, Alberta Agriculture has a number of helpful resources including brochures, a video and the annual Blue Book guide to crop protection," she adds. For information about these resources, contact the nearest Alberta Agriculture district office. -30-
Picture: More layers equal greater protection.
Question: How should spray applicators protect their armies?
Answer: They should wear nitrile gloves with cuffs and shirts with long sleevies!
Limiting exposure protective clothing's aim
Absorbing pesticides through the skin is a common type of exposure. Absorption rates vary depending on the part of the body. Protecting those areas becomes even more important, says Karen Malyk.
The hands are the most exposed part of the body. The greatest risk of exposure is during handling, mixing and loading undiluted pesticides. "This makes gloves one of the basics of protective clothing," she says.
Additional layers prevent skin absorption, particularly in sensitive areas such as the forehead, scalp, ear canal and groin. Wearing impermeable aprons when pouring and mixing concentrated pesticides is recommended to increase protection of the genital area.
"The genital area has an almost 12 times higher absorption rate than the forearm. For that reason, an extra layer of protection is an excellent safety precaution when mixing, pouring or reaching into the sprayer tank," she says. The apron can be a third layer over a pair of disposable and cloth coveralls.
Protecting your head is also very important as the scalp, forehead and ear canal absorption rates are from over three to more than five times as much as the forearm rate.
"The key is a hard hat with a plastic band, not a fabric cap," stresses Malyk. "As well, take out any cloth lining in the hard hat and clean the hat after each time you wear it."
Ear plugs and disposable coveralls with hoods add extra protection from exposure.
Malyk also reminds farmers not to wear contact lenses when applying pesticides. "Your contact lenses can also become a source of continual contamination, so don't wear them." -30-
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